Karen Grigsby Bates

Karen Grigsby Bates is the Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News. Bates contributed commentaries to All Things Considered for about 10 years before she joined NPR in 2002 as the first correspondent and alternate host for The Tavis Smiley Show. In addition to general reporting and substitute hosting, she increased the show's coverage of international issues and its cultural coverage, especially in the field of literature and the arts.

In early 2003, Bates joined NPR's former midday news program Day to Day. She has reported on politics (California's precedent-making gubernatorial recall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign and the high-profile mayoral campaign of Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa), media, and breaking news (the Abu Ghrarib scandal, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams).

Bates' passion for food and things culinary has served her well: she's spent time with award-winning food critic Alan Richman and chef-entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse.

One of Bates' proudest contributions is making books and authors a high-profile part of NPR's coverage. "NPR listeners read a lot, and many of them share the same passion for books that I do, so this isn't work, it's a pleasure." She's had conversations with such writers as Walter Mosley, Joan Didion and Kazuo Ishiguru. Her bi-annual book lists (which are archived on the web) are listener favorites.

Before coming to NPR, Bates was a news reporter for People magazine. She was a contributing columnist to the Op Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times for ten years. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Essence and Vogue. And she's been a guest on several news shows such as ABC's Nightline and the CBS Evening News.

In her non-NPR life, Bates is the author of Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People, mysteries featuring reporter-sleuth Alex Powell. She is co-author, with Karen E. Hudson, of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, a best-selling etiquette book now in its second edition. Her work also appears in several writers' anthologies.

Bates holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College. Additionally she studied at the University of Ghana and completed the executive management program at Yale University's School of Organization and Management.

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Code Switch
6:31 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

From Selma To Eisenhower, Trailblazing Black Reporter Was Always Probing

Ms. Payne interviewing a soldier from Chesapeake, Va., in Vietnam in 1967.
Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center/Harper Collins

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 8:39 am

When Ethel Payne stood to ask President Dwight Eisenhower a question at a White House press conference in July 1954, women and African-Americans were rarities in the press corps. Payne was both, and wrote for The Chicago Defender, the legendary black newspaper that in the 40s and 50s, was read in black American households the way The New York Times was in white ones.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Sat March 14, 2015

Reverend Willie T. Barrow, A 'Little Warrior' For Civil Rights, Dies

Rev. Willie Barrow, a 'superdelegate,' attending the opening night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The long-time activist, who was a mentor to President Obama, died on Thursday.
Melanie Stetson Freeman Christian Science Monitor/Getty

Originally published on Mon March 16, 2015 4:01 pm

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Code Switch
2:03 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

North Carolina Looking Into 'Black Tax' At Charlotte's Ritz-Carlton

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in 2010.
Jim R. Bounds AP

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 5:30 pm

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has directed his Department of Consumer Affairs to look into reports that some African-American customers at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte were recently subjected to unwarranted fees.

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NPR Ed
4:10 am
Thu March 12, 2015

A Child Of Slavery Who Taught A Generation

Anna Julia Cooper was the fourth African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a doctoral degree.
Scurlock Studios Smithsonian

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 12:15 pm

Some great teachers change the life of a student, maybe several. Anna Julia Cooper changed America.

Cooper was one of the first black women in the country to earn a Ph.D. Before that, she headed the first public high school for black students in the District of Columbia — Washington Colored High School. It later became known as the M Street School and was eventually renamed for poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Dunbar was a citadel of learning in segregated Washington, a center for rigorous study and no-holds-barred achievement. Its graduates over the years include:

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Code Switch
2:08 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Claude Sitton, 'Dean Of The Race Beat,' Dies At 89

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 4:56 pm

It may be that Claude Fox Sitton so outraged the white Southern segregationists he reported on throughout the civil rights movement because, by all appearances, he could have been standing beside them instead of writing about them in the New York Times.

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Code Switch
2:56 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

A 'Black Tax' At Charlotte's Ritz-Carlton?

A photo of a table tent at the lobby bar of the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte during CIAA week.
Courtesy Patrice Wright

A Charlotte news station reported on Monday that the Ritz-Carlton, one of prosperous uptown Charlotte's swankiest hotels, added what looks suspiciously like a black tax to the lobby bar tabs of patrons in town last week for the CIAA, the popular mega-tournament for basketball teams at historically black colleges and universities from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

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News
2:45 am
Thu February 26, 2015

In Hollywood, MLK Delivered A Lesser-Known Speech That Resonates Today

Rabbi Max Nussbaum (left) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Los Angeles.
Temple Israel of Hollywood

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 8:40 am

Shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize and coming back from Selma, Ala., where residents were protesting discrimination and repeated police brutality, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a lesser-known speech to a full house at the Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles in 1965.

Formally dressed in his dark minister's robes, he told the 1,400 people assembled how much their support meant to those in the thick of the struggle.

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Author Interviews
5:23 am
Mon February 23, 2015

Struggling Writer's Debut Novel Gets Coveted Oprah Winfrey Nod

First-time author Cynthia Bond
Courtesy of Cynthiabond.com

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 6:53 pm

Oprah's Book Club has turned unknown authors into superstars. Her latest selection is the novel Ruby. The book is set in an all-black hamlet called Liberty Township, in East Texas, and is part of a planned trilogy by first-time author Cynthia Bond.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Study: Black Girls Are Being Pushed Out of School

According to a new study from African-American Policy Forum, black girls and teens are disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance policies in schools.
Terry Vine Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 4:05 pm

News surrounding a confrontation in a Baltimore school is raising new questions about the role race plays in discipline for black girls. Baltimore television station WBAL has been reporting on an October incident that led to three students at the city's Vanguard Middle School being injured, and later arrested and suspended, after an altercation with a school security officer.

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Code Switch
4:37 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Style Over Substance: How Clothes Can Work For And Against Us

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, attend the funeral of New York Police Officer Wenjian Liu in New York City on Jan. 4. McCray was criticized for her choice in clothing.
Dennis Van Tine UPI/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 6:28 pm

New York city's first lady, Chirlane McCray, is being publicly dressed down for not dressing up enough when she attended the funeral of slain NYPD officer Wenjian Liu on Sunday.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Thu January 1, 2015

2014 Remembrances: Honoring Some Exceptional Lives

Sam Greenlee during the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival.
John Heller WireImage via Getty

Originally published on Thu January 1, 2015 10:27 am

As we begin the new year, Code Switch takes a moment to look back at some of the extraordinary, influential and interesting people whom we lost in 2014.

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Code Switch
4:23 pm
Sat December 27, 2014

For Hollywood, 'Selma' Is A New Kind Of Civil Rights Story

Common plays James Bevel, Tessa Thompson plays Diane Nash, Lorraine Toussaint plays Amelia Boynton and Andre Holland plays Andrew Young in Ava DuVernay's Selma.
Atsushi Nishijima Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 5:54 pm

The movie Selma opened to high praise on Christmas Day — Variety says director Ava DuVernay delivers "a razor-sharp portrait of the civil rights movement." The film focuses on a 1965 voting rights march from Selma, Ala., to the state capital in Montgomery — a march remembered for the savage beatings participants sustained at the hands of both state and local police.

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Book News & Features
3:52 am
Thu December 25, 2014

Demand For Audio Books Keeps Penguin Random House Recording

Originally published on Thu December 25, 2014 6:00 am

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

Code Switch
4:24 pm
Sun December 21, 2014

The Whiteness Project: Facing Race In A Changing America

Whiteness Project participants were filmed talking about race. The project doesn't use their names, to encourage frankness.
Feral Films, Inc.

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 1:34 pm

The voices in the Whiteness Project vary by gender, age and income, but they all candidly express what it is like to be white in an increasingly diverse country.

"I don't feel that personally I've benefited from being white. That's because I grew up relatively poor," a participant shared. "My father worked at a factory." These are the kinds of unfiltered comments that filmmaker Whitney Dow was hoping to hear when he started recording a group of white people, and hoped to turn their responses into provocative, interactive videos.

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Code Switch
3:18 pm
Sat December 13, 2014

Black Fraternities And Sororities Split On Protest Policy

The home page of the Dallas Morning News on Dec. 6, 2014 showed a protester wearing a Delta Sigma Theta shirt. Soon after, some black sororities banned members from wearing their logos at protests.
PastPages.org

Thousands of Americans gathered in Washington, D.C. Saturday for the 'Justice for All' rally. The demonstration was to protest the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, as well as decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.

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Code Switch
3:57 pm
Sat November 29, 2014

'The Banh Mi Handbook': A Guide To A Viet-French Sandwich

Paperboy Kitchen, Melbourne

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 5:29 pm

Some kids know they want to be doctors or pilots or professional sports players— Andrea Nguyen knew by the time she was 10 she wanted to be a sandwich maker. She says she's been making sandwiches and fooling around with the recipes and the ingredients since elementary school.

The sandwich she fell for first and that she still loves the most? Banh mi. (It's pronounced "bun-mee.") Her latest cookbook, The Banh Mi Handbook, is a guide for home cooks who want to make banh mi of their own.

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Race
5:48 am
Fri October 24, 2014

A Black Cosmetic Company Sells, Or Sells Out?

Real Housewives of Atlanta star Lisa Wu Hartwell gets a hair treatment at a "Curl Party" hosted by Carol's Daughter and theYBF.com in 2010.
Paras Griffin Landov

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 1:50 pm

Cosmetics giant L'Oréal purchased Carol's Daughter, a beauty company that sells natural hair and skin products for black women, earlier this week. It may seem like an unlikely chapter in the story of a business that began in a Brooklyn kitchen.

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The Changing Lives Of Women
3:23 am
Mon October 20, 2014

The Look Of Power: How Women Have Dressed For Success

A publicity still from the movie Working Girl, which prominently featured the beloved power suit.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 6:22 am

Remember power suits? At the same time women were entering the corporate workplace in large numbers, the power suit began to pop up. It was usually a long jacket with the kind of big, padded shoulders Joan Crawford made famous, a straight skirt and, often, a floppy silk bow tie that Little Lord Fauntleroy would have been at home in. The 1980s power suit was designed to ignore a woman's shape so it didn't hinder her mobility as she worked her way up the corporate ladder.

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Code Switch
7:35 am
Sat October 11, 2014

Comer Cottrell, Creator Of The People's Jheri Curl, Dies At 82

Comer Cottrell, right, confers with adman Jerry Metcalf in 1977.
Los Angeles Times

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Code Switch
4:58 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

'A Chosen Exile': Black People Passing In White America

Dr. Albert Johnston passed in order to practice medicine. After living as leading citizens in Keene, N.H., the Johnstons revealed their true racial identity, and became national news.
Historical Society of Cheshire County

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 1:24 pm

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she'd never met nor heard of.

Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it.

Hobbs' cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she'd graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother.

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Television
4:13 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Meet The Johnsons, TV's 'Black-ish' Family

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 12:20 pm

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Race
4:25 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Obama's Reaction To Ferguson Raises Questions About President's Role

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Ferguson, Mo., residents Angela Whitman (left) and Jill Richards on Wednesday at Drake's Place Restaurant about issues surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown.
J.B. Forbes MCT/Landov

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 8:22 am

Ferguson, Mo., has seen nearly two weeks of protests after an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. This week, a black leader stepped in to help defuse tensions. But it wasn't a civil rights spokesman or the first African-American president. It was Attorney General Eric Holder.

Some political observers are asking why Obama can't seem to speak for himself on race. Many observers argue that Holder often talks frankly about race when the president can't or won't.

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Code Switch
5:40 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Pentagon Does About-Face On Hair Regulations — Black Women Approve

Georgia National Guard Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs uses many hair products to do her daily hair treatment at her home in Atlanta on April 2. Jacobs railed against a military policy that placed heavy restrictions on how women could wear their hair. The policy has been overturned by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Hyosub Shin MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu August 14, 2014 8:36 am

When the Army issued updated grooming rules this spring, many black military women were offended and dismayed. The natural hairstyles many of them favored had been declared illegal: Cornrows were okay, but only if they were no larger in diameter than 1/4 inch (about the size of the diameter of a no. 2 pencil — thin). Dreadlocks were forbidden completely. And the twists and double ponytails many women had used to stay neat while out in the field no longer were allowed either.

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Remembrances
4:28 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Versatile Comedian Robin Williams Dies At 63

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 8:49 am

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

Book News & Features
2:31 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Aye, Sassenach — Gabaldon's Appeal Is Timeless

Caitriona Balfe as time-traveling Claire Randall, and Sam Heughan as her Highlander lover Jamie Fraser in the new television adaptation of Outlander.
Sony PicturesTelevision

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 11:02 pm

Novelist Diana Gabaldon writes books that sell like crazy but are hard to categorize. Her Outlander series, featuring a determined heroine who falls backward through time to the 18th century Scottish Highlands, has made Gabaldon both wealthy and famous.

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Code Switch
3:56 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Crime Writer Creates A Hero For Her Beloved, Much-Maligned South LA

Hall sits in a sunny bay window to write. "My first drafts are always in long hand, on legal pads," she explains. "I love putting pen to paper."
Andre Ellis

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 6:35 am

Rachel Howzell Hall is easing her big, laurel green Mercedes sedan through the streets of Los Angeles. A slim woman with big eyes, Hall says this Benz is her dream car, the thing she'd planned to buy for herself once she'd become a successful writer, probably around age 50.

But something happened to speed up her schedule.

"When I was 33 years old," Hall says, "I was diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer. And I was pregnant. And it was terrifying."

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Code Switch
1:43 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?

Barry Goldwater greets an Indianapolis crowd during a campaign tour in Oct. 1964.
AP

If you'd walked into a gathering of older black folks 100 years ago, you'd have found that most of them would have been Republican.

Wait... what?

Yep. Republican. Party of Lincoln. Party of the Emancipation. Party that pushed not only black votes but black politicians during that post-bellum period known as Reconstruction.

Today, it's almost the exact opposite. That migration of black voters away from the GOP reached its last phase 50 years ago this week.

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Code Switch
12:03 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

The Late Walter Dean Myers Wrote In The Language Of Teens

Author Walter Dean Myers tours his old Harlem neighborhood in New York, Dec. 13, 2010.
Charles Sykes AP

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 2:01 pm

Writer Walter Dean Myers died on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 76, leaving mourners in the adult world and young readers who saw themselves in his books. He expanded the face of publishing so that many children of color saw themselves reflected in his work.

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Code Switch
7:44 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Former Model B. Smith Reveals Diagnosis Of Alzheimer's Disease

Former model B. Smith operated restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Sat June 7, 2014 11:02 am

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans have the memory-robbing disease and African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop the late-onset version of the illness.

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Code Switch
7:22 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Honoring An Activist And Fashion Industry Role Model

Bethann Hardison speaks onstage at the 2014 CFDA fashion awards at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on Monday in New York City.
D Dipasupil Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 8:52 pm

The Council of Fashion Designers of America awards (the CFDA) are the fashion industry's equivalent of the Oscars: big, glittery, hugely prestigious. The red carpet before and after the ceremony is avidly watched. Unlike the Chambre Syndicale, which regulates France's couture and related industries, the CFDA is more of a reflector, an influencer — and, perhaps, a bellwether.

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