Harry McAlpin made history in 1944. The reporter of the ‘Atlanta Daily World’ became the first reporter to cover the White House. Although the enslaved labor was used in every aspect of White House construction in the 1700s, Black journalists were not provided credentials to the White House.
However, the National Negro Publishers Association (NNPA, now the National Newspaper Publishers Association) petitioned to obtain credentials for McAlpin to attend press briefings at the White House.
On Feb. 8, 1944, McAlpin received credentials to cover a press briefing, but other white reporters attempted to discourage him from entering the room. McAlpin ignored the other reporters and covered the press briefing for President Franklin D. Roosevelt who shook his hand.
The historic moment was documented by a ‘New York Times’ reporter who wrote, “Harry McAlpin, the only Negro yet to be accredited as a White House correspondent, attended his first press conference today. He represents the Atlanta Daily World and the press service of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association.”
Born in 1906, McAlpin studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and also obtained a law degree. Although he passed the bar exam in 1937, McAlpin decided to remain in journalism and continued to cover the White House for the ‘Chicago Defender.’
He would move to Kentucky to practice law in the 1960s and would later become the first Black hearing examiner for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
McAlpin, who passed in 1985, was honored by President Barack Obama and White House Correspondents Association in 2014.