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On this date in 1943, Nikki Giovanni was born. She is a Black writer, poet, commentator, activist, educator, and publisher.
She was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., in Knoxville, TN, and although she grew up in Cincinnati, OH, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Giovanni graduated with honors in history from her grandfather's alma mater, Fisk University.
She was highly regarded for her militancy during the 1960s, and admired as one of the New Black Poets of that era. During that time, Giovanni was also focusing on personal relationships, her poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk, and Black Judgment all of which brought her national attention. She prides herself on being "a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English." She recorded an album "Truth is on its Way" in 1972, which enhanced her career as a national speaker and reader of her material. During the 1980s, her work took on a more global tone for humanity. Giovanni wrote an outstanding children's book, Rosa, which pays tribute to the late civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
Ebony Magazine named Giovanni Woman of the Year in 1970, and Mademoiselle and Ladies Home Journal gave her the same accolades in 1971. Since 1987, she has been teaching writing, poetry, and literature at Virginia Tech.
Giovanni is also a survivor. Not long ago, she underwent a successful operation for lung cancer. As a staunch and passionate critic, educator, and orator, Nikki Giovanni inspires not only her students, but also readers and audiences nationwide. Following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, she delivered a chant-poem at a memorial for the shooting victims.
Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI