White House Correspondents’ Association Recognizes Prolific Black Journalist, Harry McAlpin

May 6, 2014  |  

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, or #nerdprom, is an annual event that gets lots of attention for the celebrity and political star power it brings together in Washington DC… and a lot of criticism for those same reasons. This year, the dinner served a greater purpose than acting as a catwalk for our favorite designers. The White House Correspondents Association honored a historic black journalist: the late Harry McAlpin was served with a posthumous membership and scholarship that bears his name. The recipient of the newfound scholarship was Glynn Hill, a student of Howard University.

According to the Associated Press, Harry McAlpin was the first black reporter to attend a presidential news conference. Despite not receiving membership from the White House Correspondents’ Association, McAlpin became a steady reporter at the White House during the administrations of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Truman.

“The breaking of that barrier did not mean that everything was now fine inside the White House for blacks. Roosevelt press secretary Stephen Early refused to introduce McAlpin to the president, as was customary at that time, leading McAlpin to walk up to Roosevelt alone, said Earnest L. Perry Jr., who wrote about the attempt to credential a black White House correspondent for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Although he tried using his White House press pass, McAlpin was never credentialed to cover Congress. Louis Lautier ended up being the first accredited African-American congressional reporter.”

After making his career as a journalist, McAlpin decided to practice law in Louisville, Kentucky. He became an NAACP regional president, shortly after. McAlpin died in 1985. He is survived by his son and grandchildren.

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