The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

May 5, 2014

White House reporters honor black journalist

(Continued)

Before McAlpin, minority reporters had been excluded from many official Washington news conferences.

That changed after the creation of the National Negro Publishers Association in 1941. John Sengstacke, the publisher of the Chicago Defender and one of the creators of the NNPA, opened a Washington bureau for the Defender and hired McAlpin, a lawyer, as a part-time correspondent. During a discussion with Attorney General Francis Biddle about the black press' war coverage, Sengstacke suggested the attorney general ask the White House to allow a black reporter into its news conferences.

In February 1944, Roosevelt invited 13 NNPA leaders to the White House, and three days later, McAlpin was standing outside the Oval Office, waiting for his first news conference as a White House reporter.

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.

McAlpin eventually left Washington to practice law in Louisville, Kentucky, and later became the president of the local NAACP chapter. He died in 1985.

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Online:

Hear Harry S. McAlpin talk about his life at http://thisibelieve.org/essay/16794/

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Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

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