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
5:23 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 6:54 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
5:27 am
Thu December 25, 2014

Demand For Audio Books Keeps Penguin Random House Recording

Originally published on Thu December 25, 2014 7:00 am

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

Code Switch
5:24 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 Sun January 4, 2015 4:57 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
4:18 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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Race
6:48 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 2:50 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
4:23 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 7:22 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
5:23 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 2:24 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
5:04 am
Tue September 23, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 1:20 pm

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Race
5:25 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 9:22 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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Remembrances
5:28 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Versatile Comedian Robin Williams Dies At 63

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 9:49 am

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

Race
6:37 am
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

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 2:43 pm

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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Law
4:02 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

The Jury Is Still Out On Why O.J. Simpson Was Acquitted

A demonstrator protests the verdict in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King outside the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mike Nelson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 11:15 am

On June 12, 1994, the butchered bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found on the front walkway of Simpson's condominium in Brentwood, an upscale section of Los Angeles. Within days, Brown's ex-husband, O.J. Simpson, was considered the prime suspect in the murder of both.

The year that followed was legendary in its cast of characters and legal maneuvering. The N-word. "If it does not fit, you must acquit." The dog howling in the night. Then, finally, the verdict.

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Code Switch
6:47 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Condiment Detente: Sriracha Plant To Stay In California City

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

The Sriracha-slurping public no longer has to worry about hoarding bottles and bottles of the spicy stuff: There will be hot sauce tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Sriracha will continue to be made in the state-of-the-art plant David Tran built in Irwindale, Calif. And residents near the plant who complained about spicy odors when chilies for the famous hot sauce were ground (from roughly August to October, during harvest season) should now be able to breathe more easily.

You get the feeling that this whole thing was a schoolyard spat that got out of control.

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Code Switch
5:39 am
Sat May 17, 2014

Nostalgia For What's Been Lost Since 'Brown V. Board'

This racially segregated Monroe Elementary School class from March 1953 shows Linda and Terry Lynn Brown, who, with their parents, initiated the Brown v. Board of Education case that helped propel school integration.
Carl Iwasaki Getty Image

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 1:41 pm

Brown v. Board of Education became the law of the land when it struck down de jure segregation in Topeka, Kan., on May 17, 1954, saying, "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate facilities are inherently unequal."

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Code Switch
3:46 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Sriracha-Maker Says Factory Will Remain In California

Sriracha chili sauce is produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif. CEO David Tran has been at odds with the local City Council over the smells emitted by the sauce factory.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 6:53 pm

Sriracha hot sauce-maker Huy Fong Foods has been tussling with the City Council of Irwindale, Calif., near Los Angeles for months now over whether the factory's spicy smells harm its neighbors. There have been legal action and suggested fixes, but also pleas from other cities for the company to consider moving there.

David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong, says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions.

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Media
5:11 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

After 6 Decades As A Staple, 'Jet' Magazine Ends Print Run

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:59 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. An era in magazine history is closing. Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co., or JPC, says "Jet" magazine is going digital. Some 700,000 subscribers will no longer see a print edition. It's with the exception of one special print issue a year. "Jet" has been a weekly staple in many African American communities for more than six decades.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates, from our Code Switch team, has this report.

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Code Switch
9:52 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Critics Find Little Humor In 'SNL' Writer's Jokes About Slavery

Leslie Jones played an "image expert" on last weekend's SNL.
NBC

Almost 21 years ago, Whoopi Goldberg was honored at the New York Friars' Club. More than 3,000 people crowded into the New York Hilton to hear Goldberg roasted by her celebrity friends.

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Code Switch
5:12 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Why Would The NAACP Honor Donald Sterling Anyway?

Actress Meagan Good and actor Chris Brown present an award during the 37th Annual NAACP Image Awards on Feb. 25, 2006
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 10:45 pm

Update: The NAACP issued a press release on Thursday advising that Leon Jenkins has resigned his post as president of the Los Angeles chapter. The national organization said it is "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

"The Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for a lifetime body of work must be withdrawn, and the donation that he's given to the Los Angeles NAACP will be returned."

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Television
5:17 am
Tue April 29, 2014

PBS Documentary Examines Ruben Salazar's Life And Death

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 1:07 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A new documentary explores the life and death of Ruben Salazar. He was a journalist. He's considered one of the founders of the modern Chicano movement and by many a martyr. He was killed in 1970 while covering an anti-war demonstration in East Los Angeles. He was shot with a tear gas canister. His death added to the urgency for Mexican-American civil rights in Southern California.

A documentary on his life airs tonight on PBS and Karen Grigsby Bates of NPR's Code Switch Team has more.

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Code Switch
2:46 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Who Runs The World? 'Time' Magazine Says Beyoncé

This image released by Time shows entertainer Beyoncé on the cover of the magazine's "100 Most Influential People" issue.
Time Magazine AP

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 9:22 am

The euphoria over Lupita Nyong'o's appearance on People's "50 Most Beautiful" list was still swirling on the Interwebs when word came, a mere four days later, that Time's "100 Most Influential" issue was on newsstands. Staring out at us was Beyoncé Knowles Carter, dressed in what appears to be a white two-piece bathing suit with a see-through cover-up.

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Code Switch
7:22 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Why Lupita Nyong'o's 'People' Cover Is So Significant

People is calling actress Lupita Nyong'o the most beautiful woman in the world. She's the third black woman to get the magazine's title.
People AP

It has been a very good 12 months for Lupita Nyong'o: piles of awards (including an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave), a contract to be the face of Lancôme Paris cosmetics, and now this: the cover of People's annual "50 Most Beautiful" issue.

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Around the Nation
4:05 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Some In Irwindale Still Not Happy About Smelly Neighbor, Sriracha

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 7:26 pm

The skirmish continues between Sriracha and Irwindale, Calif. Irwindale's city council declared that owner David Tran must curb his hot sauce factory's smelly fumes or they'll do it themselves. Tran is considering relocating, and he has already received several offers.

Code Switch
6:27 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Why A Proper Lady Found Herself Behind Bars

Mary Peabody leaves the dining room of a motel in St. Augustine, Fla., on March 31, 1964, after being arrested.
Harold Valentine AP

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 10:55 pm

This story is part of NPR's 50th anniversary coverage of 1964.

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Code Switch
10:11 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Stokely Carmichael, A Philosopher Behind The Black Power Movement

Martin Luther King Jr., shown here with Stokely Carmichael during a voter registration march in Mississippi in 1966, regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the civil rights movement's most promising leaders.
Lynn Pelham Time

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 12:26 pm

Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the civil rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African-Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent resistance from segregationists.

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Business
5:15 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Sriracha-Maker Given More Time To Contain Spicy Fumes

Sriracha chili sauce bottles are produced at the Huy Fong Foods factory in Irwindale, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 2:40 pm

The saga over the darling of the condiment world, Sriracha, continues.

The popular hot sauce in the rooster bottle is made by Huy Fong Foods in the Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale. The city has had to balance its need for business success against complaints from some residents about spicy fumes from the plant.

Wednesday night, after a contentious hearing, Irwindale's city council decided to give Huy Fong a bit more time to figure out how to contain those fumes.

The Sauce America's Hot For

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Code Switch
5:00 pm
Sat February 15, 2014

Drive For Diversity, NASCAR's Commitment To Race

Darrell Wallace Jr., a graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity Program, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26 in Martinsville, Va.
Robert Laberge NASCAR via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 9:18 pm

On Sunday, the K&N Pro Series East begins down in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. And if the track and pit look a little more diverse than they have in the past, that's in part because of a NASCAR program designed to entice different communities to try out the sport.

Market research says NASCAR's bread-and-butter fan base is about 60 percent male and 80 percent white, mostly from the Southern and Midwestern states. But as the country continues to become even more diverse, the sport is working to make sure its fan base is, too.

That's a challenge.

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Code Switch
8:16 am
Sat February 15, 2014

Love In Technicolor: Interracial Families On Television

In Parenthood, Dax Shepard plays Crosby, whose wife, Jasmine, is played by Joy Bryant. Their son is Jabbar (Tyree Brown).
NBC NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 15, 2014 7:04 pm

I Love Lucy was one of the most popular shows in the history of television. Its stars, redheaded Lucille Ball and her Cuban-American husband Desi Arnaz, became TV icons — but they almost didn't get on TV.

Kathleen Brady is the author of Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball. She says the network that wanted Ball to star in her own sitcom was not interested in her husband.

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Code Switch
5:27 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

'Vanity Fair' Adds Color To Hollywood's Golden Moment

Chiwetel Edjifor (from left), Julia Roberts, Idris Elba, George Clooney, Michael B. Jordan, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong'o, Naomie Harris, Brie Larson, Chadwick Boseman, Margot Robbie, Lea Seydoux.
Annie Leibovitz Via Vanity Fair

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 5:49 pm

Today, the March issue of Vanity Fair magazine hit newsstands in New York and Los Angeles; it will be available nationally on Tuesday. This is the 20th annual Hollywood issue, which showcases some of the industry's best talent. But this issue is quite different: Fully half the actors on the cover's three-panel foldout are black.

Befitting the occasion, the Oscar nominees on the cover are dressed in formal wear. George Clooney and Jared Leto are elegant in white tie and tails, and Julia Roberts wears the top half of a dinner jacket, a big grin and little else.

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Television
5:01 am
Mon February 3, 2014

'American Promise' Probes Race Issues In NYC Private School

Seun Summers (left) and Idris Brewster have been best friends since before they were kindergartners. They're both college sophomores today, and their parents say each is thriving in his respective school. (Seun is at York College, part of The City University of New York; Idris is at Occidental College in Los Angeles.)
Jason Kempin Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 7:42 am

Monday evening, PBS will air American Promise, a documentary that traces the lives of two African-American students for 13 years. They both enroll as kindergarteners at The Dalton School, an elite private day school in New York City that says it's making a commitment to diversity.

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Movies
4:50 am
Mon December 2, 2013

'Best Man Holiday' Resonates Across Racial Lines

The Best Man Holiday is Malcolm Lee's sequel to his film Best Man.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 7:36 pm

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