NPR: Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

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5:04am

Fri November 2, 2012
U.S.

Ala. Racist Language Measure Draws Unexpected Foes

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 1:20 pm

Alabama's Constitution still includes language referring to poll taxes and segregated schools. Voters are poised to decide on an amendment to excise the outdated lines, but some African-American leaders in the state are opposing the change.
Dave Martin AP

State-mandated segregation is a thing of the past in Alabama, but the state's antiquated 1901 constitution paints a different picture. On Tuesday, Alabama voters will decide whether to strip language from the state's governing document that calls for poll taxes and separate schools for "white and colored."

In 2004, voters rejected an amendment to purge those remnants of Jim Crow from the constitution by fewer than 2,000 votes.

'We've Got To Move Forward'

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6:18am

Sat October 27, 2012
Statewide Races

The 'Ten Commandments Judge' Wants His Seat Back

Originally published on Sat October 27, 2012 9:26 pm

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, known as the "Ten Commandments Judge," makes an appearance at a Tea Party rally in Mobile. The Republican is running for chief justice again despite being removed from the office nearly 10 years ago for defying a federal court order to remove a massive Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama judicial building.
Debbie Elliott/NPR

Republican Roy Moore, Alabama's controversial "Ten Commandments Judge," is back on the ballot this year, running for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — despite being removed from that office nearly a decade ago.

In a state as red as they come, he is facing last-minute Democratic challenger Bob Vance, who is reaching out to moderate Republicans turned off by Moore's politics.

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3:30am

Mon October 1, 2012
Race

Integrating Ole Miss: A Transformative, Deadly Riot

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 12:07 pm

Meredith, center with briefcase, is escorted to the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. marshals on Oct. 1, 1962.
AP

Fifty years ago — Oct. 1, 1962 — the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi, a bastion of the Old South.

The town of Oxford erupted. It took some 30,000 U.S. troops, federal marshals and national guardsmen to get James Meredith to class after a violent campus uprising. Two people were killed and more than 300 injured. Some historians say the integration of Ole Miss was the last battle of the Civil War.

It was a high-stakes showdown between President Kennedy and Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett.

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4:50am

Thu September 27, 2012
Election 2012

Romney Also Campaigns In Buckeye State

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 7:12 am

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's swing through Ohio took him from the suburbs of Columbus through parched cornfields and pumpkin patches to industrial corridors near Cleveland and Toledo. Romney says his policies will make things better for struggling Americans.

5:15am

Wed September 26, 2012
Election 2012

Obama, Romney Campaign In Must-Win Ohio

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 10:36 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has delivered a constant stream of criticism of President Obama, but he still confronts Republican voters who haven't heard enough.

GREENE: On a hidden videotape revealed this month, Romney was asked why he didn't hammer President Obama harder. He explained that he's trying to win over people who voted for the president in 2008.

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3:24pm

Wed September 19, 2012
Politics

Deep South Democrats Seek Path Back To Relevance

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 8:09 pm

Albert N. Gore Jr., a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., on Aug. 2. Gore is running against incumbent Republican Roger Wicker. He says there should have been younger people interested in taking on Wicker — "but they didn't want to fight."
Rogelio V. Solis AP

It can be lonely being a Democrat in the Deep South. Just ask Steve Wilson.

The young lawyer was a first-time delegate at the Democratic National Convention, but it's not something he brags about back home in Meridian, Miss.

"I don't talk about it," he says. "It's the elephant in the room, so to speak. Most of my friends are Republican, I think, but I just don't bring it up."

That climate can make it hard to recruit viable Democratic candidates in the Deep South — once a solidly Democratic region that is now reliably Republican.

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3:58am

Mon September 3, 2012
Dead Stop

A Resting Place For Hunting Hounds In Alabama

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 6:15 am

Franky Hatton and Cletis pose in front of the gravestones of Hatton's champion coon hounds at Coon Dog Cemetery near Cherokee, Ala.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Seventy-five years ago, Key Underwood and his raccoon-hunting dog Troop had a connection. Years of training and a deep relationship make human and canine a seamless hunting unit. The two can share a special bond.

So when old Troop died, Underwood buried him on the crest of a hill hidden away in the lush countryside near Cherokee, Ala. It was Underwood's favorite hunting spot. He marked the grave with an old chimney stone he chiseled with a hammer and screwdriver.

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5:53am

Tue August 28, 2012
Around the Nation

Gulf Coast Hunkers Down For Isaac's Wind And Rain

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 9:32 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Residents of New Orleans and other cities are performing the balancing act that is an essential part of life along the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes are such a regular feature that you can't let them disrupt your life too much.

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4:06pm

Tue August 21, 2012
Around the Nation

Saltwater Invades Mississippi River

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 8:25 pm

Water gets churned up at the end of a dredging pipeline connected to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. The river has seen water levels from Illinois to Louisiana plummet because of drought conditions in the past three months. When there's less flow coming downstream, saltwater from the Gulf wedges its way in.
Adrian Sainz AP

All the dry weather means there's less water flowing through the once mighty river into the Gulf of Mexico, and low outflow means saltwater from the Gulf is creeping in.

Some Louisiana cities have already begun purchasing drinking water. Now New Orleans is at risk.

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3:33am

Tue August 14, 2012
Around the Nation

La. Court In Racially Charged Power Struggle, Again

Originally published on Tue August 14, 2012 5:00 am

Justice Bernette Johnson is at the center of a legal battle over whether she will be the next chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Louisiana Supreme Court AP

A power struggle on the Louisiana Supreme Court is headed to federal court this week. Lawyers are seeking to reopen an old voting rights case that gave the Deep South state its first black Supreme Court justice. What's at stake in the racially charged fight is whether Louisiana will now have its first African-American chief justice.

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3:09am

Thu July 5, 2012
Around the Nation

New Orleans Struggles With Murder Rate, And Trust

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 10:25 pm

Sgt. Miro Brekalo talks with residents in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood, as other officers walk their beat. Their goal isn't only to stop crime; it's also to connect with citizens who are often reluctant to report crimes.
Debbie Elliott NPR

New Orleans now has the highest per capita murder rate in the country. Most of the killings are concentrated in the city's poorest neighborhoods — places like Central City, just a few blocks north of the stately mansions that line St. Charles Avenue.

The city's mayor is launching a new program aimed at cracking what he describes as a deeply rooted culture of violence. But victims complain that a failed criminal justice system has left the streets to vigilante justice, with innocent residents caught in the crossfire.

A Wounded Neighborhood

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4:49am

Tue July 3, 2012
Business

Airbus: 'The Time Is Right' To Open Alabama Plant

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 5:31 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Jobs and the economy are big issues in this election. And from Alabama, we have a story of jobs coming from overseas to the U.S. European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is making a bold move into North America to compete in the largest market in the world for passenger jets.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The firm will build its first U.S. assembly plant on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports the region has been working for years to attract Airbus.

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4:33pm

Mon July 2, 2012
NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century

Filling In New Orleans' Future, One Blank At A Time

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 9:19 pm

Candy Chang, co-founder of the website Neighborland, writes on an art installation in New Orleans in April. As part of a public street art project that later became Neighborland, Chang put nametag-like stickers on empty New Orleans storefronts for residents to write ideas for improving the city.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.

Among them is a startup called Neighborland.com, a social media tool for sharing ideas to make your neighborhood better. After signing in to Neighborland, you can find your neighborhood and post your idea. The posts all start with "I want," and you fill in the rest.

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3:44pm

Fri June 29, 2012
Health

Sole Abortion Clinic In Miss. Fights Law To Stay Open

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 10:26 pm

Abortion opponents demonstrate outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

A new Mississippi law requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to be board-certified OB-GYNs. They also must have privileges to admit patients at a local hospital.

The law is regulatory in nature, but at a bill-signing ceremony in April, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was clear about the intent.

"We have an opportunity today with the signing of this bill to end abortion in Mississippi," he said.

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5:47am

Sun June 17, 2012
Media

Like Good Bourbon, Magazine Is A Sip Of The South

Originally published on Sun June 17, 2012 1:23 pm

David DiBenedetto, the editor-in-chief of Garden & Gun, holds an editorial meeting in the magazine's Charleston, S.C., offices.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Garden & Gun magazine bills itself as the "Soul of the South." In five short years, the up-and-coming magazine has amassed a dedicated following and picked up critical acclaim.

The cover of the summer issue of Garden & Gun entices you to hit a Southern road. A smiling young woman in skinny white jeans, a straw hat and wayfarers tucked into her pocket appears ready to jump into a vintage red Mercedes roadster, top down — all under a bright Carolina blue sky.

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5:43am

Thu June 14, 2012
Media

'A Morning Ritual': New Orleans Fights For Its Paper

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 7:07 am

A New Orleans newspaper stand holds copies of Wednesday's Times-Picayune, which announced layoffs for 200 employees.
Debbie Elliott NPR

What happens when a media company wants to take away your daily newspaper? In New Orleans, you take to the streets.

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4:03pm

Fri June 8, 2012
The Salt

Food Truck Cookbook Tracks Best Meals Served On Wheels

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 6:59 pm

The crew of Shindigs sets up shop in a parking lot in Birmingham.
Debbie Elliott NPR

With recent news that even Paris has one, food trucks are certainly in vogue these days. In the U.S., they're now spreading from the hot scenes in Los Angeles and New York to smaller cities, like Milwaukee and Madison. Even school systems are jumping on the food truck bandwagon.

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4:30pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Election 2012

Enthusiasm For Romney Runs Low In Fla. Panhandle

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a rally in Pensacola, Fla., in January.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Now that former candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are endorsing Mitt Romney to be the Republican nominee for president, the GOP is working to get the rank and file to fall in line.

That's especially important in swing states like Florida. But in the primary, Romney struggled in the Panhandle of the Sunshine State — a bastion of conservative voters. And it might take more convincing for them to really get behind the former Massachusetts governor.

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6:17pm

Fri April 20, 2012
The Disappearing Coast

Two Years Later, BP Spill Reminders Litter Gulf Coast

Pictured here on April 13, 2011, Barataria Bay — part of Louisiana's Barataria Basin — was one of the hardest hit areas in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Today, obvious signs of the spill have faded, but communities are still reeling from its effects.
Mario Tama Getty Images

It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The oil has long stopped flowing and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up oiled beaches and waterways, but the disaster isn't necessarily over.

Oil fouled some 1,100 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, but today, in most spots, you can't see obvious signs of the spill. In Orange Beach, Ala., the clear emerald waters of the Gulf roll onto sugar-white sand beaches.

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3:38am

Tue April 10, 2012
Law

Federal Court To Weigh Graphic Cigarette Labels

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 8:09 am

This image provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows one of nine new warning labels it wants cigarette makers to use. Tobacco companies have sued, claiming the mandate is unconstitutional.
AP

The question of how far the government can go in forcing a business — in this case cigarette makers — to warn consumers about its product is before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.

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4:00am

Mon March 12, 2012
Around the Nation

BP Settlement Lacks Enthusiasm Along Gulf Coast

Residents of the Gulf Coast are warily evaluating the BP settlement deal in the Deepwater Horizon case. Some were hurt during clean-up of the oil spill, others lost their businesses and still others lost family in the rig explosion. But they are coming to different conclusions about whether the deal is a good one.

6:20am

Sun March 11, 2012
Mitt Romney

To Woo South, Romney Needs More Than A Twang

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 1:29 pm

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Miss., on Friday. The former Massachusetts governor has skeptics in the Deep South.
Rogelio Solis AP

Mitt Romney picked up some support in Saturday's contests, but there may be trouble lurking for him in the near future as the GOP race moves to the Deep South.

Despite his second-place finish in Kansas, Romney scored victories Saturday in caucuses in Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also won county conventions in Wyoming.

Tuesday's primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi, and the reddest of states are proving to be a tough sell for the former Massachusetts governor. He's trying his best to connect with the Republican base.

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4:24pm

Sat March 3, 2012
Around the Nation

Settlement Only The First Step In BP's Legal Woes

Originally published on Sat March 3, 2012 5:09 pm

A cross with the words "Promises Made"-- referring to statements from BP and government officials — stands in front of a pile of crosses symbolizing things that were impacted by the spill, in a front yard in Grand Isle, La.
Patrick Semansky AP

Oil giant BP has agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits stemming from its well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal was announced late Friday and prompted a federal judge in New Orleans to postpone a Monday trial, but the proposed settlement solves only one piece of BP's legal exposure from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

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4:00am

Thu March 1, 2012
Law

Georgia, Ala. Immigration Laws Challenged In Court

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 12:18 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Federal courts are nearing final judgment on some of the nation's toughest immigration laws.

Next month, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law in Arizona. Laws in two other states are now before a federal appeals court in Atlanta, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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12:01am

Thu February 16, 2012
Around the Nation

BP's Oil Slick Set To Spill Into Courtroom

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 10:53 am

Docks on the Bon Secour River sit idle nearly two years after the BP oil spill. The small fishing village of Bon Secour, Ala., is still suffering the lingering effects of the spill, despite government monitoring and assurances that Gulf seafood is not contaminated.
Debbie Elliott NPR

A federal court in New Orleans is preparing for one of the largest and most complex environmental lawsuits ever to come to court. It stems from the worst oil disaster in U.S. history: the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig nearly two years ago and the resulting oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. The case combines more than 500 lawsuits in one proceeding designed to determine who's responsible for what went wrong.

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12:01am

Tue January 17, 2012
Newt Gingrich

Newt's 'Food Stamp President': Racial Or Just Politics?

All of the Republican presidential hopefuls take on President Obama in their stump speeches, attacking his health care plan, his jobs record and more.

But the shorthand former House Speaker Newt Gingrich uses, calling the nation's first black president the "food stamp president," is raising questions.

It's a theme Gingrich has used since Iowa, and he returned to it during a forum in Charleston, S.C., over the weekend.

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7:16am

Sun January 15, 2012
Around the Nation

America's Heartland Awaits Its Candidate

There's talk of reviving the shuttered paper mill in Brownstown, Ind. But for now, most rural residents have to travel bigger cities for work.
Debbie Elliott NPR

In this election year, an emerging theme coming from voters around the country is frustration with the tone of politics today. NPR's Debbie Elliott set out to revisit Brownstown, Ind., where she first talked with voters during the 1998 congressional elections, another acrimonious time.

Fourteen years ago, Anne Clodfelter was directing the Jackson County Homemakers Extension Chorus as they prepared for an upcoming concert.

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8:00am

Sat January 14, 2012
Presidential Race

Connecting With S.C. Voters, Candidates Try BBQ

The South Carolina primary is one week from Saturday. On Friday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum hit an upstate barbecue, vying to emerge as the candidate the state's conservative Republicans can rally behind. NPR's Debbie Elliott was there and has this report.

12:01am

Thu December 29, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Katrina's Wake, New Orleans Enjoys Start-Up Boom

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 2:59 pm

Sudhir Sinha's company, InnoGenomics, is one of hundreds of startups that call New Orleans home.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

New Orleans has long been known as one of America's hardest luck cities, struggling over the years with poverty, crime, corruption and tragic disaster. But the city's darkest days have sparked a surprising new entrepreneurial spirit.

Residents Billy Bosch and Matt Mouras, for example, are trying to launch a nutritional beverage company and are getting a leg up from Idea Village, a nonprofit that helps nurture the city's entrepreneurs.

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6:12am

Sat December 24, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Camden, S.C., A Family's Generations Talk Race

Originally published on Sun December 25, 2011 12:07 am

Sisters Ernestyne James Adams (right) and Althea James Truitt are concerned about the economy and today's political climate.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

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