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.
The Birmingham movement in 1963 was a turning point when children joined the struggle for equal rights. The brutal response from white segregationists galvanized support for the Civil Rights Act.
The descendants of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and those of the people the Lee family enslaved came together for the first time at Arlington House, the national memorial to Lee in Virginia.
Civil rights trails across the South have proven to be an economic driver. In Mississippi, there's a new push to better tell that history. And now, the federal government is getting involved.
Details are trickling in following Saturday's mass shooting in Dadeville, Ala. Four people were killed and 28 others injured at a "Sweet 16" birthday party.
President Biden has approved a federal emergency declaration for Mississippi, after a tornado hit four counties killing at least 25 people, injuring dozens of others and destroying countless homes.
President Biden approved a federal disaster declaration for Mississippi. Officials said dozens were injured, while hundreds were displaced. More bad weather is expected in the Southeast into Monday.
There's a new push to develop civil rights tourism in the Mississippi Delta where local groups are using federal dollars to preserve the stories before memories fade and landmarks are lost.
With pandemic restrictions lifted, tourists are returning to Mississippi's famous Blues Trail. Civil rights leaders are noticing some are now hungry for more context about the music's origins.
Artists in New Orleans and Cuba are exploring their shared heritage and similar sounds, and bringing high school musicians from both places together in a funky cultural exchange.
The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile's Press-Register will soon go all-digital. In Birmingham, where people have been reading the paper since the late 1800s, the news hasn't been easy.