Debbie Elliott NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South and occasionally guest-hosting NPR news programs.
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Debbie Elliott

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Debbie Elliott at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)
Allison Shelley/NPR

Debbie Elliott

Correspondent, National Desk

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South and occasionally guest-hosting NPR news programs. 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 – tornadoes, floods, and major hurricanes including Andrew, Katrina, and Harvey. She reported on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, introducing NPR listeners to teenage boys orphaned in the disaster who were struggling to survive on their own.

She spent months exclusively reporting on 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. Her series "The Disappearing Coast" examined Louisiana's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the disaster'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 deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the mass murder of worshippers at a rural Texas church. She was part of the NPR team covering the impact of the mass shootings at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

A particular focus for Elliott is exploring how Americans live through the prism of race, culture, and history. 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.

She was present for the reopening of civil rights era murder cases, covering trials in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham; the murder of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer; and the killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

In 2018, she won a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award for a radio feature about Mississippi confronting its past with a new civil rights museum.

Elliott has followed national debates over immigration, healthcare, abortion, tobacco, voting rights, religious freedom, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, Confederate monuments, criminal justice, and policing in America. She reported on the tense aftermath of the Alton Sterling killing in Baton Rouge, when three law enforcement officers were killed in an ambush. She examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, a shortage of public defenders in Louisiana, the incarceration of girls in Florida, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup.

Elliott has profiled key figures in politics and the arts, including historian John Hope Franklin, children's book author Eric Carle, musician Trombone Shorty, and former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. She covered the funerals of the King of the Blues, BB King, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Her stories give a taste of southern culture, from the Nashville hot chicken craze to the traditions of Mardi Gras, and the roots of American music at Mississippi's new Grammy Museum. She's highlighted little-known treasures such as 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. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Elliott is a former host of NPR's All Things Considered on the Weekends, and a former Capitol Hill correspondent. She's covered Congressional and Presidential elections for nearly three decades.

Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and graduated from the University of Alabama. Prior to joining NPR, she worked in commercial and public radio in Alabama. Elliott lives in south Alabama with her husband, two children, and a pet beagle.

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Story Archive

Some Alabama Voters Surprised By Jeff Sessions' Potential Senate Comeback

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Jeff Sessions Wants To Return To The Senate, GOP Sources Say

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Jeff Sessions Expected To Announce A Comeback Bid For Alabama Senate Seat

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Trump Rallies For Republicans In Mississippi

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News Brief: House Passes Resolution On Impeachment, Zelenskiy Profile, Mississippi

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Mississippi Governor Election Preview

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Shirley Sherrod is co-founder of the New Communities Land Trust founded 50 years ago as a safe haven for African-American farmers thrown off their land during the civil rights movement. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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5 Decades Later, New Communities Land Trust Still Helps Black Farmers

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U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., says that under current election procedure, there's "no way" he could win statewide office in Mississippi. Several African-Americans are now challenging those procedures. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Black Voters Sue Over Mississippi's Jim Crow-Era Election Law

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Florida Breathes A Collective Sigh Of Relief As Hurricane Dorian Moves North

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Florida And North Carolina Prepare For Hurricane Dorian As Storm Moves North

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A bullet-riddled sign that once marked where Emmett Till's body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River is now housed at the Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Miss. The historic marker was taken down after three white fraternity brothers from the University of Mississippi were pictured holding guns next to the sign. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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'Why Don't Y'all Let That Die?' Telling The Emmett Till Story In Mississippi

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Children of mainly Latino immigrant parents hold signs in support of them and other individuals swept up during an immigration raid at a food processing plant in Mississippi. Rogelio V. Solis/AP hide caption

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Families Affected By Mississippi ICE Raids Scramble To Find Support

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Mississippi Food Processing Company Is Looking For Workers After ICE Raids

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Advocates Scramble To Help Mississippi Families Caught Up In ICE Raids

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Children's Defense Fund Trains New Activists

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