Nikki Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr. on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She grew up near Cincinnati, Ohio and often visited Knoxville in order to visit her maternal family; she particularly developed a close relationship with her maternal grandmother.
After graduating high school, Giovanni was then accepted into Fisk University. She graduated from college in 1967. Upon her return to Cincinnati, she established the city’s first Black Arts Festival. She also began writing the poems that would comprise her first self-published volume of poetry, ‘Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement,’ which she released in 1968.
Throughout the early 1970s, Giovanni worked diligently to establish herself as a leading poet of the Black Arts Movement. She published ‘Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet’ (1971) which was nominated for the National Book Award.
In 1973, she was awarded the title of Woman of the Year by Ladies Home Journal. That was one of many awards and accolades that she received during the 1970s. She also made a television appearance on the Black arts and culture show ‘Soul!’
By the time the 1980s came around, Giovanni had established herself as a poet and public speaker. In fact, the majority of her time was spent touring to different speaking engagements. She also began teaching at College Mount St. Joseph and Virginia Tech.
In more recent years, Giovanni has written several books. She entered the arena of writing children’s books, including ‘Rosa’ (2005) and ‘Jimmy Grasshopper Versus the Ants’ (2007). The former is a picture book that tells the story of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
Other Written Work
Also in 2007, Giovanni released another volume of poetry, entitled ‘Acolytes.’ That same year, she also published a piece of nonfiction, titled ‘On My Journey Now: Looking at African American History through the Spirituals.’
Over the span of her career, Giovanni has won several awards and nominations. Now at the age of 75, Nikki Giovanni has taken a step away from the public’s eye and had focused on teaching at Virginia Tech. Enthusiast and supporters of her written work eagerly await the next published piece from her.
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