Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

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8:06pm

Fri March 27, 2015
Code Switch

Southern Baptists Don't Shy Away From Talking About Their Racist Past

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 10:52 pm

Russell Moore preaching during the first plenary address, "Black, And White And Red All Over: Why Racial Reconciliation Is A Gospel Issue."
Alli Rader

Southern Baptist leaders were supposed to be talking about bioethics this week at a summit in Nashville, Tenn. That changed in December after a New York grand jury declined to return an indictment in the police choking death of Eric Garner.

When Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, sent out tweets expressing his shock, there was pushback. Should the church get involved in a divisive political issue?

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4:36pm

Wed March 11, 2015
Around the Nation

Investigation Continues Into Crash Of Blackhawk Military Helicopter In Fla.

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 10:40 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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8:10am

Sun March 8, 2015
Race

Obama Evokes The 'Eternal Struggle' In Selma

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 1:08 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

6:28pm

Fri February 27, 2015
Around the Nation

New Museum Depicts 'The Life Of A Slave From Cradle To The Tomb'

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 8:31 pm

In recent years, some popular antebellum plantations have started to incorporate displays about slavery. But the Whitney Plantation has designed the visitor's entire experience around that history.
Debbie Elliott NPR

The section of Louisiana's serpentine River Road that tracks along the Mississippi between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is known as "Plantation Alley." The restored antebellum mansions along the route draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

The newest attraction aims to give visitors a realistic look at life in the pre-Civil War South. Don't expect hoop skirts and mint juleps, but stark relics that tell the story of a dark period in American history, through the eyes of the enslaved.

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7:23pm

Wed February 18, 2015
Code Switch

Ala. Governor Apologizes To Indian Government In 'Excessive Force' Case

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 8:11 pm

Sureshbhai Patel lies in a bed at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, Ala., on Feb. 7. Patel was severely injured when police threw him to the ground.
Chirag Patel AP

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley apologized on Tuesday to the government of India for an incident, captured on a squad car's dashboard camera, in which officers slammed an Indian man to the ground.

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6:26pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Law

Ruling May Force Ala. Probate Judges To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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6:16pm

Tue February 10, 2015
Around the Nation

After Ruling, Alabama Faces Hodgepodge Of Same-Sex Marriage Policies

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:53 pm

Gay rights advocates have asked a federal court to order probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Meanwhile, some couples staged a sit-in, of sorts, outside the Mobile County courthouse.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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4:31pm

Mon February 9, 2015
Around the Nation

Alabama Joins 36 States In Allowing Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 6:27 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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4:28pm

Wed January 28, 2015
Law

Judge Throws Out Convictions Of Civil Rights Pioneers, 'Friendship 9'

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 1:16 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It was a day of historical reckoning in Rock Hill, S.C. A judge threw out the convictions of several civil rights pioneers who were jailed 54 years ago for a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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4:28pm

Tue January 20, 2015
Law

BP Back In Court For Final Phase Of Gulf Oil Spill Trial

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 11:25 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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12:05pm

Sat November 29, 2014
Code Switch

A Musical Tribute For A Waiter Who Spoke Out Against Racism

Justin Hopkins sings during a tribute show for Booker Wright, who worked in a whites-only restaurant in the Mississippi Delta.
Brandall Atkinson Courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance

Editor's note: This story contains racial slurs.

A new musical work pays tribute to an unlikely and little-known civil rights activist: Booker T. Wright. You won't find his name in history textbooks. But his story is a testament to the everyday experiences of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

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5:20am

Tue November 25, 2014
Around the Nation

Plan To Use Gulf Oil Spill Funds For Beach Hotel Sparks Lawsuit

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 5:04 pm

The Alabama gulf coast is heavily developed with condo and hotel properties. Now the state wants to use Gulf Coast restoration funds to build a new beach hotel and conference center.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Money is flowing now to Gulf Coast states to remedy damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. All kinds of projects are underway, from building boat ramps to shoring-up marshland.

They're being paid for with a $1 billion down payment BP made toward its ultimate responsibility to make the Gulf Coast whole, a figure estimated to be up to $18 billion.

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12:15pm

Tue November 4, 2014
Politics

Senate Control Could Ride On The South's Tight Races

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 12:35 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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11:23am

Mon November 3, 2014
Book News & Features

Spine-Tingling With A Twang: Great Alabama Ghost Stories

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 7:41 pm

This photo, taken at Katherine Tucker Windham's Selma house, shows reporter Nikki Davis Maute — and in the background, some say, the spirit the family calls Jeffrey.
University of Alabama Press

Halloween is a day for ghost stories, but if you're a skeptic, don't fret. As the late Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham assured her listeners, tales of restless spirits are for everybody.

"I collect ghost stories," Windham said. "Now, the nice thing about ghost stories is that you don't have to believe in ghosts to enjoy hearing a good ghost story."

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8:48pm

Tue October 28, 2014
Politics

Alabama's Darius Foster Wants To Bring Back 'Fight For The People' GOP

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 8:34 pm

Darius Foster says he wants to challenge racial and political expectations. "With me, unfortunately, everything is black Republican. Not Darius did this, but the black Republican did that."
Debbie Elliott NPR

Republicans are trying to make inroads with African-Americans in the Deep South, who have voted overwhelmingly Democrat since the civil rights era. In Alabama, the GOP is fielding more black candidates this cycle than ever before. One of them is Darius Foster, who gained national attention with this viral video challenging racial and political expectations:

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