Encyclopedia of Appalachia
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Giovanni, Nikki (1943– )

Poet and essayist. Author Nikki Giovanni is a major voice for African Americans across the nation. Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr., in Knoxville, Tennessee, she was reared in Cincinnati, where her parents moved when she was still an infant. She returned to Knoxville while in high school to live with her maternal grandparents. After graduating with honors in history from Fisk University in 1967, she attended the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work and Columbia University. Her career as a poet and writer was launched during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when she made her home in New York City. In 1978 she moved with her young son to Cincinnati to care for her parents. Since 1987 she has been professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

The author of more than twenty-five books of poetry and essays, Giovanni has seen her works widely anthologized. Some of her titles include Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968); Black Judgement (1970); Spin a Soft Black Song (1971); A Dialogue: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni (1973); Ego Tripping and Other Poems for Young Readers (1973); Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978); Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983); Sacred Cows . . . and Other Edibles (1988); Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1996); Love Poems (1997); Blues for All the Changes: New Poems (1999); and Quilting the Black- Eyed Pea: Poems and Not-Quite Poems (2002). Giovanni's media performances include a PBS film, Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (1987), and recordings such as Truth Is on Its Way (1971), Like a Ripple on a Pond (1973), The Way I Feel (1975), Legacies (1976), and The Reason I Like Chocolate (1976).

Giovanni is a popular teacher and reader of her own works, and her honors include the NAACP Image Award for Literature (1998) and the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters (1996). She has been named Woman of the Year by Ladies' Home Journal and Mademoiselle and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Maryland, Fisk University, Indiana University, Albright College, and Smith College. See also: AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE; POST–WORLD WAR II POETS.

—April Asbury, Pulaski, Virginia

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