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Yolande Cornelia ‘Nikki’ Giovanni

Yolande Cornelia 'Nikki' Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni

Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. A leading poet of the Black Arts Movement, Giovanni’s work reflects her radical politics. In 1967 she graduated from Fisk University and published her first poetry collection, Black Feeling. It was followed by the poetry collections Black Talk (1968) and Black Judgment (1970). Truth Is on Its Way, a recording of Giovanni reading poems set to gospel and other black music, was a bestseller in 1971.

After the birth of her son in 1969, Giovanni’s work became more personal and less political. In 1989 she began teaching English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni was published in 1996 and Blues for All the Changes: New Poems appeared in 1999.

Over the past thirty years, Nikki’s outspokenness, in her writing and in person, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely read American poets, she prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” 

Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.

Nikki Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. Her book Racism 101 includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues. She has received nineteen honorary doctorates and a host of other awards, including “Woman of the Year” awards from three different magazines as well as Governors’ Awards in the Arts from both Tennessee and Virginia. Her two most recent volumes of poetry, Love Poems and Blues: For All the Changes, were both winners of the NAACP Image Award, in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. As a devoted and passionate writer, teacher, and speaker, she inspires not only her students, but also readers and audiences nationwide.

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