Nikki Giovanni Biography


This biography highlights the life of Nikki Giovanni and her accomplishments. Nikki was born in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. She gives hope and inspires through her literary works. She writes on the plight of African-Americans from the 1960s to today. Some of her poetic works include Black Feeling Black Talk published in 1968 and Bicycles: Love Poems released in 2009, among others.

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Quick Facts

Name: Nikki Giovanni
Occupation: Poet, writer, educator, commentator, activist,
Date of Birth: June 7, 1943
Widely known for: Expressing the plight and thoughts of the black community through poetry and other genres since the 1960s

Giovanni’s Early Life

Giovanni was born on June 7, 1943, to Jones " Gus" Giovanni and Yolande Cornelia, Sr. Her parents named her Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr at birth. Later, the family relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio where her parents worked as social workers at Glenview School. When she became of age, Giovanni entered an Episcopal school. She would later join Fisk University in Tennessee to pursue higher education. Nikki was fond of reading. She mostly read literary works from notable writers like Richard Wright, T. S. Eliot, and others.

Political Activism

Giovanni was a major figure during the Civil Rights Movement. Working with other civil rights activists, she advocated for the rights of the black community through her literary works and spoken word. She admits that the Black Power movement and the Civil rights movement inspired her to write many works. The Black Power movement came into being between 1965 and 1975. It involved a politically motivated group of black poets. It also included writers, dramatists, and other artists. Some of her works were inspired directly by these movements included:


• Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968)
• Black Judgement (1968)
• Re: Creation (1970)

Giovanni’s Poetry and Its Impact on Literature

Giovanni succeeded immensely at establishing herself as one of the most trusted and
authoritative poetic voices. In the 1980s, Giovanni released many publications. One
outstanding attribute of her writing, found in all her poems is that they are all politically,
socially and/or spiritually aware. Giovanni has also written content to teach and entertain
children. Her other works are about major figures in the civil rights movements.

In addition to writing, Giovanni has also been a professor. Teaching poetry in universities as a professor from Virginia Tech University to The College of Mount St. Joseph. Giovanni was
named a recipient of the 2016 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia. The award honors outstanding and long-lasting contributions to literature by authors from Virginia. Some of the previous winners include Edgar Allan Poe, Tom Wolfe, Rita Dove, William Styron, John Grisham, and Barbara Kingsolver, Booker T. Washington.

Children’s books

• Ego-Tripping and other poems for young people(1971)
• The Sun Is So Quite (1996)
• Lincoln and Douglas: An American Friendship (2018)
• I Am Loved(2018)

Poetry works

• Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968)
• My House ((1972)
• Woman(1978)
• Acolytes(2007)


• Truth is on its way (1976)
• The reason I like chocolate (1976)
• The Nikki Giovanni Poetry collection (2002)

Giovanni’s Awards and Honors

• The iconic poet has won several prestigious awards in her life. These include:
• NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work-Poetry
• NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction
• American Book Award
• Woman of the Year from Ladies Home Journal in 1973.


PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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