NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
For more than two decades, Elliott has been one of NPR's top breaking news reporters. She's covered dozens of natural disasters – including hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Harvey. She reported on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, introducing NPR listeners to teenage boys orphaned in the disaster, struggling to survive on their own.
Elliott spent months covering the nation's worst man-made environmental disaster, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, documenting its lingering impact on Gulf coast communities and the complex legal battles that ensued. She launched the series "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the oil spill's lasting imprint on a fragile coastline.
She was honored with a 2018 Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation for crisis coverage, in part for her work covering the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the mass murder of worshippers at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. She was part of NPR's teams covering the mass shootings at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Elliott has followed national debates over immigration, healthcare, abortion, tobacco, voting rights, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, Confederate monuments, criminal justice and policing in America. She examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, a shortage of public defenders in Louisiana, a rise in the incarceration of girls in Florida and chronic inhumane conditions at state prisons in Alabama and Mississippi.
A particular focus for Elliott has been exploring how Americans live through the prism of race, culture and history. Her coverage links lessons from the past to the movement for racial justice in America today.
She's looked at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, including the integration of Little Rock's Central High, the assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the Montgomery bus boycott and the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. She contributed a four-part series on the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, which earned a 2019 Gracie Award for documentary.
She was present for the re-opening of civil rights era murder cases, covering trials in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, the murder of Hattiesburg, Miss., NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer and the killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Miss.
Elliott has profiled key figures in politics and the arts, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, historian John Hope Franklin, Congressman John Lewis, children's book author Eric Carle, musician Trombone Shorty and former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. She covered the funerals of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, and the King of the Blues BB King, and she took listeners along for the second line jazz procession in memory of Fats Domino in New Orleans.
Her stories give a taste of southern culture, from the Nashville hot chicken craze to the traditions of Mardi Gras to the roots of American music at Mississippi's new Grammy Museum. She's highlighted little-known treasures such as North Carolina artist Freeman Vines and his hanging tree guitars, the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' Lower 9th ward, a remote Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama and the Cajun Christmas tradition of lighting bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River.
Elliott is a former host of NPR's newsmagazine All Things Considered on the weekends, and is a former Capitol Hill Correspondent. She's an occasional guest host of NPR's news programs and is a contributor to podcasts and live programming.
Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She lives in south Alabama with her husband, two children and a pet beagle.
Louisiana's $2 billion plan to divert the Mississippi River is getting pushback. The project is part of the state's effort to save a coast suffering one of the highest rates of land loss in the world.
Survivors and their descendants say facing the truth about the Tulsa Race Massacre is essential in the nation's struggle to confront racial injustice and violence against Black people.
Arkansas officials said it had the potential to become a "catastrophic event," adding, "The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic and the river was closed to barge traffic as a safety precaution."
April 27, 2011 was one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. More than 300 people died across the Deep South. Some have rebuilt but the recovery shows racial and economic disparities.
Former prosecutors and judges say Toforest Johnson's murder conviction was based on shaky evidence. The case is getting a new look as district attorneys review the integrity of past prosecutions.
Black entrepreneurs have long faced challenges be it getting financial capital, or discrimination in contracting. Now, the pandemic has hit them the hardest and many are trying to find ways to thrive.
A lingering mistrust of the medical system among many Black people is rooted in the infamous 20th century U.S. study of syphilis that left Black men in Tuskegee, Ala., to suffer from the disease.
State officials say they were blindsided this week by the legal action alleging brutal and unconstitutional conditions in the state's prisons.
More than half of workers surveyed said they were reluctant to enforce COVID-19 safety measures with customers from whom they would receive tips, according to the One Fair Wage study.
A trip through the Mobile-Tensaw Delta offers a little bit of everything, from iris fields and gators, to Civil War history and the wreck of the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to America.