Nikki Giovanni Biography – The Poet and Activist Who Inspires Millions
American poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni has been a strong force in the civil rights movement for over 30 years. She also uses her passion for literature to advance Black Power interests and principles.
PHOTO BY BRETT WEINSTEIN
Nikki Giovanni Biography - Life and Teaching Career
Yolanda Cornelia and Jones Giovanni welcomed their daughter Nikki on June 7, 1943 while living in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nikki spent her childhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attained higher education at Fisk University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. In 1968, she published Black Feeling Black Talk, her first book of poetry, and gave birth to Thomas Watson Giovanni the following year before launching her second book. Part of the Nikki Giovanni biography
is her battle with lung cancer, which led to lung removal surgery. Since 1987, she has been a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Tech. Her inspiring speech at the ceremony commemorating the Virginia Tech shootout on April 16, 2007, is a notable highlight of the Nikki Giovanni biography.
Nikki Giovanni Poems - Information and Background
Giovanni has used different African American activists and artists as inspiration for her literary works. She paid tribute to rapper Tupac Shakur through her 1997 book Love Poems. The 2009 follow-up to that book contained Nikki Giovanni poems
that touched on the Virginia Tech massacre and the deaths of her mother and sister, who both died of lung cancer. Aside from written publications, she also released spoken word recordings that have been critically recognized worldwide. The album Truth Is on Its Way contains Nikki Giovanni poems read against a background of gospel music. She also wrote a poem for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Nikki Giovanni Quote - Society and Literary Citations
Giovanni’s poetry caters to different age groups, offering memorable quotes even for children. Connie, a poem in the children’s book The Sun Is So Quiet, she writes the beautiful passage “we write our names knowing…the sun will melt them off; But the sun is so quiet…that we don’t care we smile.” She has also been very vocal about political issues. A memorable Nikki Giovanni quote was delivered during a 1999 Martin Luther King Day event when she condemned hate-motivated violence. “What’s the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he’s gay?” she said, referring to victims James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard.