emily kask

Photo by Emily Kask for NPR

For writer Jesmyn Ward, Mississippi is a place she loves and hates all at once.

She grew up and still lives in the tiny town of DeLisle, Miss., close by the Gulf Coast, where, she writes, African-American families like hers are “pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism.”

Those struggles, hinging on race and class, run all through her writing, from her novel Salvage the Bones, which won Ward a National Book Award in 2011; to her searing memoir Men We Reaped, published in 2013; to her new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Ward, 40, has chosen to return to DeLisle and raise her children there, despite her profound ambivalence about what the town represents. NPR’s Melissa Block visited her there, to talk about place, belonging, and telling the stories of the silenced.

– Petra


From photography, illustration and video, to data visualizations and immersive experiences, visuals are an important part of our storytelling at NPR. Interwoven with the written and the spoken word, images — another visual language — can create deeper understanding and empathy for the struggles and triumphs we face together.

We told a lot of stories in 2016 — far more than we can list here. So, instead, here’s a small selection of our favorite pieces, highlighting some of the work we’re most proud of, some of the biggest stories we reported, and some of the stories we had the most fun telling.

(Some Of) Our Favorite Visual Stories of 2016

Images: David Gilkey/NPR; Emily Kask, Cassi Alexandra (2), and Andrew Cullen for NPR; Alyson Hurt/NPR; Adrienne Grunwald for NPR; Joy Ho and Meredith Rizzo/NPR


Police used pepper spray and what they called nonlethal ammunition to remove Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from federal land Wednesday. Demonstrators say they were trying to occupy land just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where construction of the controversial pipeline is scheduled.

This was the first significant clash between law enforcement and protesters since demonstrations turned violent last week and more than 100 people were arrested.

According to the Morton County, N.D., Sheriff’s Department, a group of people began building a wood pedestrian bridge across a creek north of the main protest camp early Wednesday morning. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land and had asked law enforcement to remove any protesters who try to reach it.

Officers in boats pulled the makeshift bridge apart and warned protesters they would be arrested if they continued to trespass. After a several-hour standoff with police, protesters dispersed and returned to their main camp.

During the standoff, a few protesters watched from across the nearby Cannonball River. They waded into the water — some chest-deep — to shout support for colleagues closer to officers.

Protesters And Law Enforcement In N.D. Continue To Clash Over Pipeline

Photos: Emily Kask for NPR; Stephanie Keith/Reuters

September 10, 2014

I haven’t had much free time at all these past 2 weeks; the beginning of school has been a total blur. Here are some “in-betweens” I made while out on assignment though.