Karen Grigsby Bates

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As the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis began to mount over the past several days, my inbox and Facebook page began to fill with observations from my contemporaries. Many of them said variations of the same thing:

This is just like 1968.

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The world is less generous and less welcoming because B. Smith, former model, entertainer and lifestyle doyenne, has left it.

At age 70, Smith succumbed to early onset Alzheimer's, which she had been battling for years. She died Saturday at her Long Island home with family nearby.

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Finally today, got snacks? The Academy Awards are today, the capstone event to the awards season in Hollywood that began with the Golden Globes.

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SCARLETT JOHANSSON: And the Golden Globe goes to Awkwafina.

This week, the Code Switch team is sharing conversations with some of our favorite authors about the books we're starting the decade with. Today, senior correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates talks to Susan Straight about her new memoir, In The Country of Women.

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We're betting that there are a lot of us out there who remember getting books as presents back in the day. I definitely remember receiving a copy of Little Women for Christmas when I was about 10 and later, copies of Jane Eyre (still one of my faves), Emma and Pride and Prejudice. When I was older, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni joined them on my bookshelves.

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The singer and actress Diahann Carroll was as famous for her elegance as she was for her acting and her voice. She died today at her home in Los Angeles from complications of breast cancer. She was 84. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has this appreciation.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


Gloria Gaynor has said she's pretty sure her signature song, the 1978 disco smash "I Will Survive," was created just for her. But the singer had to go through a lot before she and the song found each other.

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET

When Toni Morrison received her Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, her remarks began with a reflection on the phrase once upon a time. In her signature, measured cadence, Morrison told the Swedish Academy she believed these were some of the first words we remember from our childhoods.

Exactly 100 years ago today, Chicago was in the throes of a brutal heat wave. Thousands flocked to the beaches lining Lake Michigan for some relief. Among them: a group of black boys that included 17-year-old Eugene Williams. Eugene, who was on a raft, inadvertently drifted over the invisible line that separated the black and white sections of the 29th St Beach. One white beachgoer, insulted, began throwing rocks at the black kids. Eugene Williams slipped off his raft and drowned.

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Employees at Sephora cosmetics went through inclusion training this week. It came about after the singer SZA said she was racially profiled at one of the stores. But does that kind of training work? Here's Karen Grigsby Bates from our Code Switch team.

Because of her food journalism, the food world has been well aware of Samin Nosrat for several years. But she became a household name when two things happened: First, her book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, became a runaway bestseller. The book explores the mysteries of cooking for the home chef and garnered just about every award a cookbook could get.

Poet Kevin Young says there are so many different kinds of poetry, even people who think they hate it should reassess. "I think of [poetry] more like music," Young told me last year. "Like, if someone said, 'I don't like any music,' I would be like 'Who are you? I don't understand.' They haven't found the right music to me, then."

Same with poetry, he says: "I think we have to help people find the right poem for them."

Ebony magazine was more than a publication — to black America, it was a public trust. It held a place of prominence in millions of African-American households whose members did not otherwise see themselves in the mainstream media. So back in 2015, when Johnson Publishing Company announced it was spinning off its flagship magazine, Ebony, and also its news magazine sibling, Jet, people knew something was up.

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Today, ethnic studies is an accepted part of academia. Many if not most college students have taken a course or two. But 50 years ago, studying the history and culture of any people who were not white and Western was considered radical. Then came the longest student strike in U.S. history, at San Francisco State College, which changed everything.

The groundwork was laid for the strike a couple of years before, when black students organized to press for a black studies department and the admission of more black students.

The value of civility is one of the few things Americans can all agree on — right? That's the common assumption. And yet it's an assumption that depends on everyone thinking they're a full member of the community.

But what about when they aren't?

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When Antonio Reliford was a child in New Jersey, he and his family did what a lot of African-American families did when it came to vacations: They hit the road to visit relatives in the South.

But this was back before the nation had a network of high-speed highways. Before major routes like the New Jersey Turnpike or Interstate 85, which goes through the Southeast.

And so the Reliford family had to use what everyone else did: two-lane roads that often went through picturesque rural areas.

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As midterm elections approach, politicians and activists are urging people to get out and vote, especially in places where races are close.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith went to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City with a plan: If they won medals, they would stage a protest against racism and injustice on the world stage.

Smith and Carlos both attended San Jose State University, where black athletes had been quietly meeting to discuss whether they would even go to the Olympics.

Apartheid-era South Africa had been given permission to compete in the games, but with a threatened boycott by some of the Americans, the invitation was withdrawn and the boycott called off.

You think you're accomplishing something in life until you realize that at age 29, playwright Lorraine Hansberry had a play produced on Broadway. Not only did she have a play, but her drama, A Raisin in the Sun, beat out Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill to win the prestigious New York Drama Critics' Circle for the best play of the year. Let that sink in.

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