Nikki Giovanni, American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator
Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni, Jr. (born June 7, 1943) is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator.
One of the world’s most well-known African-American poets, her work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and nonfiction essays, and covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature. She has won numerous awards, including the Langston Hughes Medal, the NAACP Image Award, and has been nominated for a Grammy Award, for her Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. Additionally, she has recently been named as one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.”
Giovanni gained initial fame in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement. Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement of the period, her early work provides a strong, militant African-American perspective, leading one writer to dub her the “Poet of the Black Revolution.”
During the 1970s, she began writing children’s literature, and co-founded a publishing company, NikTom,Ltd to provide an outlet for other African American women writers. Over subsequent decades, her works discussed social issues, human relationships, and hip-hop. Poems such as “Knoxville, Tennessee,” and “Nikki-Rosa” have been frequently re-published in anthologies and other collections.
Giovanni has taught at Queens College, Rutgers, and Ohio State, and is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. Following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, she delivered a chant-poem at a memorial for the shooting victims.