Harry S. McAlpin made history in February 1944 when he became the first black reporter to cover a presidential news conference at the White House.
Time magazine and The New York Times noted the milestone. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who’d opened the White House doors after entreaties from African-American publishers, greeted the reporter as he made his way over to the president’s desk, telling him, “Glad to see you, McAlpin.”
It was not a sentiment shared by McAlpin’s fellow scribes, members of the White House Correspondents’ Association who for a decade had denied black reporters the opportunity to attend the twice-weekly news conferences in the Oval Office.
Roosevelt’s invite did nothing to deter them. A member of the association told McAlpin he’d share notes from the news conference with him if he didn’t attend, suggesting that in the crush of reporters moving into the room someone could get hurt.