Nikki Giovanni life and biography

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Nikki Giovanni biography

Date of birth : 1943-06-07
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Nashville, Tennessee
Nationality : African-American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-06-08
Credited as : Writer and poet, ,

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Nikki Giovanni is born in Nashville, Tennessee, 7 June 1943.

Education: Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1960-61, 1964-67, B.A. (honors) in history, 1967; University of Pennsylvania Social Work School, Philadelphia; Columbia University School of the Arts, New York.
Family: One son.
Career: Poet, writer, and lecturer. Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing, assistant professor of black studies, 1968; Rutgers University, Livingston College, New Brunswick, NJ, associate professor of English, 1968-72; Ohio State University, Columbus, visiting professor of English, 1984; College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, Mount St. Joseph, Ohio, professor of creative writing, 1985-87; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, professor, 1987--; Texas Christian University, visiting professor in humanities, 1991.
Founder of publishing firm, NikTom Ltd., 1970; participated in "Soul at the Center," Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 1972; Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, Taft Museum, Cincinnati, 1986; Co-chair, Literary Arts Festival for State of Tennessee Homecoming, 1986; director, Warm Hearth Writer's Workshop, 1988--; appointed to Ohio Humanities Council, 1987; member of board of directors, Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, 1990-93; participant in Appalachian Community Fund, 1991-93, and Volunteer Action Center, 1991-94; featured poet, International Poetry Festival, Utrecht, Holland, 1991. Has given numerous poetry readings and lectures worldwide and appeared on numerous television talk shows.
Awards: Grants from Ford Foundation, 1967, National Endowment for the Arts, 1968, and Harlem Cultural Council, 1969; named one of ten "Most Admired Black Women," Amsterdam News, 1969; outstanding achievement award, Mademoiselle, 1971; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Award, 1971, for outstanding contribution to arts and letters; Meritorious Plaque for Service, Cook County Jail, 1971; Prince Matchabelli Sun Shower Award, 1971; life membership and scroll, National Council of Negro Women, 1972; National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award, 1972, for recording Truth Is on Its Way; Woman of the Year Youth Leadership Award, Ladies' Home Journal, 1972; National Book Award nomination, 1973, for Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet; "Best Books for Young Adults" citation, American Library Association, 1973, for My House; "Woman of the Year" citation, Cincinnati Chapter of YWCA, 1983; elected to Ohio Women's Hall of Fame, 1985; "Outstanding Woman of Tennessee" citation, 1985; Post-Corbett Award, 1986; Woman of the Year, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Lynchburg chapter), 1989; Tennessee Governor's Award In the Humanities, 1996; Parents' Choice Award for The Sun Is So Quiet, 1996; NAACP Image Award for Love Poems, 1998; NAACP Award for Blues: For All the Changes, 2000; Virginia Governor's Award for the Arts, 2000; Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, 2002; American Library Association's Black Caucus Award for Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, 2003; NAACP Image Award for Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, 2003; ALC Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005; Caldecott Honor Book, for Rosa, 2006. Carl Sandburg Award, 2007.
Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, Wilberforce University, 1972, and Fisk University, 1988; Honorary Doctorate of Literature, University of Maryland (Princess Anne Campus), 1974, Ripon University, 1974, and Smith College, 1975; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, The College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, 1985, Indiana University, 1991, Otterbein College, 1992, Widener University, 1993, Albright College, 1995, Cabrini College, 1995, and Allegheny College, 1997.
Keys to numerous cities, including Dallas, TX, New York, NY, Cincinnati, OH, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, and Los Angeles, CA; Ohioana Book Award, 1988; Jeanine Rae Award for the Advancement of Women's Culture, 1995; Langston Hughes Award, 1996. Address: Department of English, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, P.O. Box 0112, Blacksburg, Virginia 24063-0112, U.S.A.

Nikki Giovanni(Also known as: Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., Yolande Cornelia Giovanni) is a poet for persons young and old, a poet for persons of all races. And she is a songstress for children. Her songs are of the spirit. They concentrate on blackness, womanhood, and also on living. They beat the drums of Martin Luther King, Jr., drums of triumph and of pain, drums of peace. They celebrate the mother who doesn't care if she owns the whole world; her universe is her little son. They tell what it's like to eat fresh corn and okra and greens in the South in the summertime.

All of Giovanni's works may be enjoyed by the young adult. Those found in the children's section of the library are among her more joyous and lyrical. Young adults will respond to her references of growing up, to her dreams of running faster than any gazelle, outswimming any fish, and beating a falcon up to the top of the mountain.

Spin a Soft Black Song includes a variety of poems--poems about love and friendship, hopes and dreams. In "Poem for Rodney," Rodney is always being asked what he is going to be when he grows up; he just thinks he'd like to grow up. In "Poem for Debbie," we meet a young girl who is tall and bold, with sneakers to make her run faster. In "If" a young man thinks about being Matthew Henson and exploring the North Pole or the man in Harriet Tubman's life who gives her support on her journeys south. The illustrations of children in this book are all of black children, and some of the words are descriptive of the children's blackness. But most of the emotions, happy and sad, apply to all young people.

Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young incorporate black history, past and current, more than the former book. "Poem for Black Boys" asks where are the heroes for black boys and suggests that they play run-away-slave or Mau Mau rather than cowboys and Indians. "Revolutionary Dreams" speaks of militant dreams of blacks taking over America, stopping the riots and negotiating the peace. "Revolutionary Music" digs Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown. Other poems are not about race. "Alone" is about loneliness and about communicating with others--universal concerns. Again, the illustrations are of black people, with the addition of one white cop.

Giovanni gained widespread popularity with two early works, Black Feeling, Black Talk and Black Judgement, because of their strident and often angry verse. She made her poems accessible to young people through public readings at colleges and through best-selling recordings accompanied by gospel music. In much of these works, Giovanni focuses on the individual's search for love and acceptance, reflecting what she considers a major struggle in the black community. "Nikki-Rosa," from Black Judgement, is often cited as her signature poem. It recounts her happy childhood, asserting that happiness depends on love rather than material possessions, that black love is black wealth.

The personal perspective of "Nikki-Rosa" is continued in her next work, Re:Creation, and in the essay collection, Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet. These works, influenced by the birth of her son in 1969 and by her increasing affection for rhythm and blues, are less angry than her previous volumes. In them Giovanni views the black revolution more from a personal than a collective perspective and speaks to the need for change in order to address the possibilities of life. These works will have particular meaning to black youth, but they will also have meaning to all youth who are impatient for social change and who intend to devote energies to achieve it.

Those Who Ride the Night Winds is a collection of poems about people who have tried to affect change, who went against the status quo, who were willing to test their wings. Included are poems about Lorraine Hansberry, John Lennon, Billie Jean King, Charles White, Robert Kennedy, Rosa Parks. Lorraine Hansberry made it possible for all of us to look a little deeper. Robert Kennedy reminds us that trees should never be felled in the summer, before the promise is fulfilled.

Giovanni's poems are found in a number of popular anthologies, such as Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems (selected by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, et al., Scholastic Inc., New York, 1988) and The Poetry of Black America: Anthology of the 20th Century (edited by Arnold Adoff, Harper and Row, New York, 1973). These poems deserve to be read; they will be enjoyed in whichever book cover they are found.

Giovanni returned to teaching in 1984. Appointed professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1989, her courses included the Harlem Renaissance and The Black Aesthetic. Meanwhile, state, national and international recognition continued. The PBS film Spirit To Spirit: Nikki Giovanni, Poets in Performance (1987) received the Oakland Museum Film Festival's Silver Apple Award, and her essays, published under the title Sacred Cows . . . And Other Edibles (1988), received the Ohioana Library Award.

As Giovanni moved through her middle years, her works continued to reflect her changing concerns and perspectives. She has edited poetry collections like the highly praised Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy like My Sister Kate (1995) and continued to supplement her poetry with occasional volumes of nonfiction. In Racism 101 (1994) she looks back over the past thirty years as one who has influenced the civil rights movement and its aftermath. Her poetry collection, The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1996), spanned the first three decades of her career. Twenty of the fifty-three works collected in Love Poems (1997) find the writer musing on subjects as diverse as friendship, sexual desire, motherhood, and loneliness, while the remainder of the volume includes relevant earlier works.

Giovanni's Blues: For All the Changes (1999) consists of fifty-one poems dealing with such themes as the precarious state of our environment and Giovanni's battle with illness: she had been diagnosed with cancer and had surgery to remove a lung and some of her ribs. The book won an NAACP Image Award, an honor that was repeated with her next book, Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, which also discussed her experience with cancer. She knew that few people survive lung cancer, and she wanted to describe the experience to give people with cancer a voice. While writing the book, she worked hard to find a balance between the emotions the illness brought up--fear and pain, leavened with humor. Along with explorations of the experience of illness, Giovanni also examined current events of the time, such as the story of Susan Smith, a woman who killed her two children and then accused a black man of the crime. Now in her 60s, she also discussed love from the perspective of a woman of that age.

Giovanni won a Caldecott Medal for her children's book Rosa, which tells the story of Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused to obey racist laws that said blacks should sit at the back of the bus. Her disobedience made her a symbol and inspiration for the civil rights movement. Bryan Collier, the illustrator, was given the Coretta Scott King award for best illustration. In addition to receiving critical acclaim, the book reached #3 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Giovanni has been writing for decades, and many readers who first found her works in the late 1960s are still reading her books today. She will doubtless continue to write, telling the truth as she sees it, gathering many more readers, of all ages and races, along the way.

Publications for Young Adults


* Black Feeling, Black Talk. Detroit, Broadside Press, 1968 .
* Black Judgement. Detroit, Broadside Press, 1968 .
* Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement. New York, Morrow, 1970 .
* Poem of Angela Yvonne Davis. New York, Afro Arts, 1970 .
* Re:Creation. Detroit, Broadside Press, 1970 .
* My House, with foreword by Ida Lewis. New York, Morrow, 1972 .
* The Women and the Men. New York, Morrow, 1975 .
* Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, with introduction by Paula Giddings. New York, Morrow, 1978 .
* Those Who Ride the Night Winds. New York, Morrow, 1983 .
* Sacred Cows . . . and Other Edibles. New York, Morrow, 1988 .
* The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni. New York, Morrow, 1996 .
* Love Poems. New York, Morrow, 1997 .
* Blues: For All the Changes . New York, Morrow,1999 .
* Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
* The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.


* Editor, Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions. New York, Holt, 1994 .
* Racism 101. New York, Holt, 1994 .
* Editor, Shimmy, Shimmy, Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems. New York, Henry Holt, 1996 .
* Editor, Grand Fathers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions. New York, Holt, 1999 .
* The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni New York, Morrow, 2003 .
* On My Journey Now. New York, Morrow, 2007.
* Recordings: Truth Is on Its Way, Right-On Records, 1971; Like A Ripple on a Pond, Niktom, 1973; The Way I Feel, Atlantic Records, 1974; Legacies: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, Folkways Records, 1976; The Reason I Like Chocolate, Folkways Records, 1976; Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Folkways Records, 1978.

Publications for Children


* Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, illustrated by Charles Bible. New York, Hill & Wang, 1971 ; reprinted with illustrations by George Martin, Westport, Connecticut, Lawrence Hill, 1985 ; revised edition, New York, Farrar, Straus, 1987 .
* Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, illustrated by George Ford. Westport, Connecticut, Lawrence Hill, 1973 .
* Vacation Time: Poems for Children, illustrated by Marisabina Russo. New York, Morrow, 1980 .
* Knoxville, Tennessee, illustrated by Larry Johnson. New York, Scholastic, 1994 .
* The Genie in the Jar, illustrated by Chris Raschka. New York, Holt, 1996 .
* The Sun is So Quiet, illustrated by Ashley Bryan. New York, Holt, 1996 .
* The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1968-1995), Morrow, 1996 .
* The Girls in the Circle (Just for You!). New York, Holt, 2003.
* Rosa, New York, Holt, 2005.

Publications for Adults

* Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971 .
* A Dialogue: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, with James Baldwin. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1973 ; London, Joseph, 1975 .
* A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, with Margaret Walker. Washington, D.C., Howard University Press, 1974 .


* Editor, Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices. Newark, New Jersey, Medic Press, 1970 .
* Editor, Appalachian Elders: A Warm Hearth Sampler. Blacksburg, Virginia, Pocahontas Press, 1991 .
* Author of foreword, The Abandoned Baobob: The Autobiography of a Woman, Chicago, Chicago Review Press, 1991 .

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