Nikki Giovanni
“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don't expect you to save the world I do think it's not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your live those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”
– Nikki Giovanni

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Nikki Giovanni joined the world on June 7, 1943 born to Yolande Cornelia, Sr. and Jones "Gus" Giovanni. She was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. She grew up in Lincoln Heights an all- black suburb in Cincinnati, Ohio but would return to Knoxville every summer to spend time with her grandparents with her sister. Her grandfather had a powerful influence over her education. She attended his alma mater, Fisk University, graduating with honors in 1968 with a BA in History. Nikki’s thirst for knowledge did not end with an undergraduate degree. She then went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Giovanni gave birth to her only child, Thomas Watson Giovanni, on August 31, 1969 out of wedlock, seen to be a bold move at the time of his birth. She later stated that she had a child out of wedlock at twenty-five because she "wanted to have a baby and she could afford to have a baby" and because of her conviction that (marriage) as an institution was inhospitable to women and would never play a role in her life. In 1969 after the birth of her son she began teaching at Livingston College and Rutgers University, and since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor, In 2007 she moved the spirit of a sad nation when she spoke at the Virginia Tech Convocation after the slaying of so many innocent lives.
Nikki Giovanni published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968, and within the next year published a second book, thus launching her career as a writer. Early in her career she was dubbed the "Princess of Black Poetry," and over the course of more than three decades of publishing and lecturing she has come to be called both a "National Treasure" and, most recently, one of Oprah Winfrey's twenty-five "Living Legends." Her literary career is well known world-wide thrusting her into a world of fame and distinguished honors. She has received twenty-five honorary doctorates and a great many other awards, including "Woman of the Year" awards from three different magazines as well as the key to several different cities. She received her first award in 1970 as Ebony Magazines, Woman of the Year.
Honors bestowed to activist and world renowned author Nikki Giovanni

Ebony Magazine, Woman of the Year
Keys to more than a dozen cities, including Dallas, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Los Angeles
Mademoiselle Magazine, Woman of the Year
Ladies Home Journal, Woman of the Year

National Association of Radio and Television Announcers (N.A.T.R.A.) Award for Best Spoken Word Album, for Truth Is On Its Way

Life Membership & Scroll, The National Council of Negro Women

National Book Award Nomination for Gemini

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Honorary Member)
YWCA Woman of the Year, Cincinnati Chapter
The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame

Outstanding Woman of Tennessee

The Post-Corbett Award

Distinguished Recognition Award, Detroit City Council

Duncanson Artist in Residence, The Taft Museum

Cincinnati Bi-Centennial Honoree

Silver Apple Award, Oakland Museum Film Festival

The Ohioana Library Award (for Sacred Cows)

McDonald's Literary Achievement Awards: Poetry Award to be presented in the name of Nikki Giovanni in perpetuity

Spin A Soft Black Song selected by the United States Information Agency for Inclusion in the Exhibition to the Soviet Union

The Children's Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award (for Vacation Time)

National Festival of Black Storytelling Initiates the Nikki Giovanni Award for Young African American Storytellers

Utrecht International Poetry Festival, Featured Poet

The Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair, Texas Christian University, April 16-19

"Two Friends." Incorporated as a Permanent Tile Wall Exhibit by the Oxnard Public Library, California

Martin Luther King, Jr., Visiting Professor, University of Oregon, January 15-22

Portland Art Beat, Featured Poet

Community Volunteer of the Year Award, Warm Hearth Village

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Roanoke Chapter) initiates The Nikki Giovanni Annual Artistic Award

The Beach Lecturer, University of Minnesota

The John Tate Lecture for Excellence in Academic Advising, University of Minnesota

The Hill Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota
Keys to the cities of Kokomo, Indiana; Mobile, Alabama; and Morgantown, West Virginia

Black Women's Honor Society Award, University of Southern California

Tennessee Writer's Award, The Nashville Banner

Visiting Professor of English, University of Indiana/Kokomo

The Jeanine Rae Award for the Advancement of Women's Culture, National Women's Music Festival

1996 Tennessee Governor's Award In the Humanities.

The Tennessee Humanities Council.

Honorary Citizenship, City of Baltimore. 27 January 1996.

Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni nominated for NAACP Image Award. 6 April 1996.

Featured Writer. Literacy Partners Benefit Reading. Lincoln Center. New York. 29 April 1996.

Keys to the Cities of Natchez, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama.

Outstanding Humanitarian Award. The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 25 June 1996.

Artist-in-Residence. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 28-29 June 1996.

Knowledge Heritage Award. The Knowledge Afrocentric Empowerment Coalition, Augusta Correctional Center. 27 September 1996.

Contributor's Arts Award, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing. 26 October 1996.

The Langston Hughes Award for 1996. City College of New York. 7 November 1996.

Selected Author for The Literacy Letters Auction. Sponsored by Literacy Partners, Inc. Sotheby's. 5 December 1996.

Parents' Choice Award for The Sun Is So Quiet.

Esther Eberstadt Baldwin Scholar. College of Notre Dame of Maryland. 9-10 February 1997.

Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies. Virginia Tech.

NAACP Image Award for Love Poems.

Belle Ringer Image Role Model Award. Bennett College. 20 March 1998.

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johnson & Wales University. 1-2 April 1998.

Robert E. Dennard Visiting Scholar. St. Mark's School of Texas. Dallas, Texas. 15-17 April 1998.

Invited Guest. Millenium Evening at the White House. 22 April 1998.

Living Legacy Award. Juneteenth Festival of Columbus, Ohio. June 1998.

National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. The Gwendolyn Brooks Center of Chicago State University. 16 October 1998.

The Appalachian Medallion Award. University of Charleston. 3 December 1998.

The 1998 Tennessee Governor's Award in the Arts

Invited Participant at Children's Defense Fund Symposium. Organized by Marian Wright Edelmann. Other participants included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Education Donna Shalala, Toni Morrison. March 1999.

University Distinguished Professor. Virginia Tech. Blacksburg, VA. August 1999.

Blues: For All the Changes. Nominated for Library of Virginia 2000 Poetry Award. September 1999.

Blues: For All the Changes. NAACP Image Award for Literature. 12 February 2000.

Membership in The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, The State of North Carolina. 5 November 1999.

Capitol Citation. State of North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State. 5 November 1999.

Voted Ohio's Favorite Author of Poetry by Ohioans. Ballot sponsored by Ohioana Library Association. October 1999.

Black Feeling, Black Talk. Included in "Some 100 classic millennial books," Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., The New York Amsterdam News, 30 December 1999 – 5 January 2000, p. 20.

N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for Blues: For All the Changes

Member, 2000 Council of Ideas, The Gihon Foundation

Virginia Governor's Award for the Arts.

Judge, Poetry Panel. The National Book Awards.

Distinguished Member Recognition Award. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Wilberforce Alumnae Chapter. Wilberforce, Ohio.

Appreciation given to Nikki Giovanni by the Virginia Dept. of Correctional Education.

Certificate of Appreciation. The Black Caucus of Virginia Tech.

City Council Resolution Honoring and Welcoming Nikki Giovanni. City of Youngstown, Ohio. Proclamation of welcome by Mayor George M. McKelvey. City of Youngstown, Ohio.

Member. Council on Ideas. Gihon Foundation. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Commendation. State of California.

Certificate of Appreciation. City of Los Angeles.

Commendation. County of Los Angeles.

United States Senate Certificate of Commendation. Presented by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Celebration of Poetry, Art, & Music. Los Angeles, California.

Official Welcome. Resolution, Erie County Legislature. Buffalo, NY. Resolution: Nikki Giovanni Day. City of Buffalo Common Council. Plaque of Appreciation. Nu Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. University of West Florida.

Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni. Top 10 Books on MosaicBooks.Com.

Keys to the Cities of Saginaw, Michigan and Dallas, Texas.
The SHero Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award. (First recipient.)

American Library Association's Black Caucus Award for Non-fiction (for Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea)

NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (for Quilting)

Honorary Citizen of Louisville, Kentucky

Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Delta of Tennessee Chapter, Fisk University

Honored in a Proclamation from the Mayor of Hartford which proclaimed that 10 April 2003 was "Nikki Giovanni Day In the City of Hartford".

"Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea." Selected as one of Top 10 Adult Picks in the 2003 African American Booklist. Detroit Public Library.

Name one of the "HistoryMakers" in 2003.

Nominated for a Best Spoken Word Grammy in the 46th Annual Grammy Awards for her album "The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection."

Nominated in the poetry category for the 7th Annual Library of Virginia Literacy Awards.

Nominated for NAACP Image Award for Literature.

Honored by Robert Baker from Texas Tech University by naming a species of bat in her honor (Micronycteris giovanniae).

Named one of "Women of Strength & Courage." American Legacy. New York, NY. 26 February 2004.

Featured in the "African American Wisdom Knowledge Cards" compiled and illustrated by Bob Johnson and Mary Margolies. Rohnert Park: Pomegranate Communications Inc.

Featured in the "Literacy Encounters" 2004 Calendar by Jill Krementz. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. 15-21 November 2004.

Featured in the "Freedom Forum's First Amendment Calendar" for 2004. 17 August 2004.

Featured in "The Ohio Reading Road Trip".

Elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Chapter of Tennessee as an alumnae member.

Winner of the Atlanta Daily World 2nd Atlanta Choice Awards. The East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame Award for Poetry. 27 Apr. 2004.

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea selected for the 2004-05 Adelante! Book Club of the American Association of University Women.

Key to the City – City of Grambling. Grambling, LA. 2005.

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, Poet-In-Residence Award. 2005.

Virginia Arts Celebration in NYC. Special guest of the Governor. 09 Apr. 2005.

The Mu Zeta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 14 Apr. 2005.

"The Legends" designation from The Oprah Magazine. Aug. 2005.

Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford, Fourth Humanitarian Award. 06 Aug. 2005.

The 2005 John Henry "Pop" Lloyd Humanitarian Award. Atlantic City, New Jersey. 1 Oct. 2005.

The Federal City Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Commendation. 20 Nov. 2005

The 2005 ALC Lifetime Achievement Award. 01 Dec. 2005.

Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 18 Jan. 2006.

University of Virginia Women's Center, HUES Leadership Network for Women of Color Award. 18 Mar. 2006.

Theta Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 26 Jan. 2006.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Texas A & M University – Commerce, Certificate of Appreciation. Spring 2006.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award for Rosa. 2006.

Rosa named Child Magazine's Best Children's Book of the Year, Oct. 2005.

Rosa selected as the Anchor Book for Celebrate with Books. Cleveland Public Library.

Rosa is #3 on New York Times bestseller list. 12 Feb. 2006.

Rosa named a Caldecott Honor Book.

Rosa receives the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration.

The Legacy Award. National Alumni Council United Negro College Fund. Nashville, Tennessee. 2 Feb. 2007.

The National Council of Negro Women Appreciation Award. 15 Feb. 2007.

Althea Gibson 50th Anniversary in recognition of the pioneering achievements of African-American women. US Tennis Association. New York. 27 August 2007.

The African American Literary “Legends And Legacies” Award for Poetry. Acolytes. 26 September 2007.

The Gwendolyn Brooks/John O. Killens Award. October 2007.

Congratulations from the Mayor of Dayton, Ohio for being recognized at the “Legends and Legacies” Award Ceremony. 11 October 2007.

Welcome Certificate (equivalent of the “Key to The City”). Columbus, Ohio. Congratulation for being honored at the “Legends and Legacies” Award Ceremony. 11 October 2007.

Certificate of Congressional Recognition for being recognized at the “Legends and Legacies” Award Ceremony. 11 October 2007.

Carl Sandburg Literary Award honoring significant contribution to literature that has increased public interest in literature. Chicago Public Library. 17 October 2007.

Certificate of Recognition for Literary and Artistic Achievement. Hamilton County Committee of the Ohioana Library Association and The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. November 2007.
Seal of The Town of Babylon, New York.

Key to The City of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ann Fralin Award for a woman who has significantly enhanced the arts or education. Art Museum of Western Virginia. 28 November 2007.

Honorary Membership. Gaiete De Coeur Arts and Study Club honoring African and African-American art. Nashville, Tennessee. 5 December 2007.

Honorary Citizenship. Smyrna, Tennessee.

Excellence in Leadership. Dominion’s 2008 Strong Men and Women Program to honor positive African-American role models. 17 January 2008.

“Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2008.” On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals. National Council for The Social Studies (NCSS) and The Children’s Book Council. 28 January 2008.

Sankofa Freedom Award given biannually to a well-known African-American whose life's work enhances awareness of African-American issues. African American Resource Center. Tulsa, Oklahoma. 9 February 2008.

Women of Power Legacy Award for an African-American woman whose work has paved the way for success for women of color. Black Enterprise. New York, New York. 13 February 2008.

NAACP Image Award for Poetry honoring people of color in the arts and individuals or groups promoting social justice through creativity. Acolytes. 14 February 2008.

Exhibit of Nikki Giovanni Collection. Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University, Boston, MA. April 2008.

Teachers’ Choices Booklist selection recognizing recent publications that will encourage children to read. On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals. May 2008.

The Juneteenth Freedom Award. Presented by Charles Withers at the Juneteenth Freedom Festival. Roanoke, VA. 21 June 2008.

National Parenting Publications Gold Award. Hip Hop Speaks to Children. September 2008.

Literary Excellence Award from the 4th Annual Capital Book Fest. 4 October 2008.

Certificate of Recognition for Literary and Artistic Achievement presented by the Hamilton County Committee of the Ohioana Library Association. Cincinnati, OH. 18 November 2008.

American Book Award honoring outstanding literary achievement from the diverse spectrum of the American literary community. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998. December 2008

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Dedication and Commitment to Service. Lehigh University. 19 January 2009.

NAACP Image Award honoring people of color in the arts and individuals or groups promoting social justice through creativity. Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. 12 February 2009.

Number 1 in Poetry on for Bicycles. 17 February 2009.

Number 14 in All Fiction Sold on for Bicycles. 17 February 2009.

Number 80 in All Books Sold on for Bicycles. 17 February 2009.

Senate Resolution No. 260 from the Senate of Maryland in recognition of Nikki Giovanni’s accomplishments. 27 February 2009.

Number 15 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for Hip-Hop Speaks to Children. 15 March 2009.

Number 32 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for Fiction. Bicycles. 15 March 2009.

Nikki Giovanni’s accomplishments clearly indicate the impact she has made on modern day times. As a literary genius and activist she has proven herself worthy of all that she has been honored with. Additional highlights include but are not limited to, being inducted to the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame and named an Outstanding Woman of Tennessee. Giovanni has also received Governor's Awards from both Tennessee and Virginia. She was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, and she has also been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry. She is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and has received Life Membership and Scroll from The National Council of Negro Women. A member of PEN, she was honored for her life and career by The History Makers. A scientist who admires her work even named a new species of bat he discovered for her!

Motivation was never out of reach for Nikki Giovanni. Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others. The true basis for all her work which paved the road to her success is her ability to reach out and communicate with elegance her positive outlook for our world through her work.

Early influences for Nikki Giovanni are directly linked to Malcolm X. Her later works focused on the individual struggle for fulfillment rather than the collective struggle for black empowerment. Radicalized by the assassination of Malcolm X and by the rise of the militant Black Panthers, her poetry in the 1960's and 1970's was colorful and combative. In her first three collection of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgment (1968), and Re-creation (1970), her content was urgently revolutionary with deliberate interpretation of experience through a black perspective. Giovanni’s experiences as a single mother then began to influence her poetry. Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), Ego Tripping (1973) and Vacation Time (1980) were collections of poems for children. Loneliness, thwarted hopes, and the theme of family affection became increasingly important in her poetry in the 1970's. She returned to political concerns in Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983), with dedications to Black American heroes and heroines.
Recommended reading of Nikki Giovanni’s cutting edge poetry can be found at

Fowler, V.. "Nikki Giovanni." The Nikki Giovanni Website. 13 Mar. 2011. Hollyworks. 1 Oct. 2002 <>.
"Nikki Giovanni." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 13 Mar. 2011. Wikipedia Foundation Inc. modified 12 Mar. 2011 <>.
"Nikki Giovanni." Famous Black Poets. 13 Mar. 2011. AfroPoets. Copyright 2003-2007 <>
Nikki Giovanni." Poets.Org. Academy of American Poets, 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2011.