Two media pioneers, Alice Dunnigan and Ethel L. Payne, were recently honored for their groundbreaking work at a time when racial tension was at an all-time high in America.

The late correspondents were dedicated storytellers who once graced the halls of The White House, theGrio reported. They were also the first Black female reporters approved to be in the presidential briefing room as political journalists. Dunnigan worked for the Associated Negro Press in 1948 when she received her credentials to join The White House press corps, and Payne, who worked for The Chicago Defender, became the second not long after in the 1950s. Now, their names will forever be remembered inside the “President’s Palace” on the new Dunnigan-Payne lectern dedicated to them.

“The White House lectern is a powerful symbol of freedom and democracy beamed around the world on a regular basis,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, according to theGrio. “I can’t think of two better people to be associated with that symbol than Alice and Ethel.”

Jean-Pierre, a history maker herself as she is the first Black woman to hold her present-day position within the “Executive Mansion,” led this celebratory decision to highlight the two reporters.

In 2022, Dunnigan and Payne were recognized by the White House Correspondents’ Association when the organization created and announced a lifetime achievement award to commemorate their brave efforts to tell stories that impacted the lives of Black Americans, which was the catalyst for the new lectern. new reading desk.

The lectern, located in the briefing room, has become a sacred national treasure as only a select few have the privilege to stand behind it. Martha Joynt Kumar, an emeritus professor of political science at Towson University, who covered the relationship between the media and The White House, believes this shows progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Since the toast, which is used to pay tribute at state dinners when everyone in attendance raises their glasses, and the Blue Goose, the familiar “bulletproof” lectern used for formal speeches, are symbols of importance, the Dunnigan-Payne lectern holds equal significance.

This monumental accolade dedicated two Black women who made it possible for other women of color to later join The White House press corps has made current correspondents like April Ryan, who has faced criticism for being vocal about the Black community’s issues, feel more “seen” than ever before.


“There are still crescendo moments in Black America,” Ryan told theGrio, “and we are the only ones who are asking those questions or writing those stories, and asking Black questions that no one else dares, or wants, or thinks are important enough to ask.”