Michele Norris, co-host of National Public Radio’s newsmagazine “All Things Considered,” will speak at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in the auditorium of the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.
Her lecture, free and open to the public, is part of the university’s Family Weekend activities that run here Friday through Sunday. The talk is sponsored by the University Lectures Committee.
Norris’ first book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, published a year ago, started as an extension of an NPR series about race relations in the United States but turned out to be mostly autobiographical.
The title of the book refers to a decision by her late father, Belvin, to not tell her that he once was shot. The title, she said, is in honor of what she calls his “incredibly graceful act” of shielding her from his past.
“Our parents tell us what they think we need to know,” she said. “And my father didn’t think I needed to know (about the shooting). He wanted to make sure that my path forward was uncluttered by his pain.”
His choice, she said, is representative of his generation of black veterans who had fought for their country overseas, and then had to fight again for their dignity back at home.
In preparing to write the book, Norris traveled extensively to explore her own complex racial legacy and interviewed hundreds of Americans about race in America. She shares an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep for “The York Project: Race and the ’08 Vote.”
A Minnesota native, Norris attended Washburn High School in Minneapolis. She studied electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin but returned to the University of Minnesota, where she received a journalism degree in 1985.
She wrote for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and was a correspondent for ABC News for nine years before joining NPR in 2002.
Her Washington Post series about a 6-year-old who lived in a crack house was reprinted in the book Ourselves Among Others, which also included essays by Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Annie Dillard and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
She was on an ABC News team that received an Emmy and Peabody Award for its coverage of 9/11. She was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2009; that year she also was named one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Black Americans and to Ebony Magazine’s Power 150 list.
She lives in the District of Columbia with her husband, Broderick Johnson, and her son, daughter and stepson.