Yolanda Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1960, she entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she worked with the school's Writer's Workshop and edited the literary magazine. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
In her first two collections, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968) and Black Judgement(1969), Giovanni reflects on the African-American identity. Recently, she has published Acolytes (HarperCollins, 2007), The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 (2003), Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not-Quite Poems (2002) Blues For All the Changes: New Poems(1999), Love Poems (1997), and Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni(1996).
A lung cancer survivor, Giovanni has also contributed an introduction to the anthology Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors (Hilton Publishing, 2005).
Her honors include three NAACP Image Awards for Literature in 1998, the Langston Hughes award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996, as well as more than twenty honorary degrees from national colleges and universities. She has been given keys to more than a dozen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans.
Several magazines have named Giovanni Woman of the Year, includingEssence, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and Ladies Home Journal. She was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has served as poetry judge for the National Book Awards and was a finalist for a Grammy Award in the category of Spoken Word.
She is currently Professor of English and Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.
Childhood rememberances are
always a drag if you're Black
you always remember things like
living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
They never talk about how happy
you were to have your mother
all to yourself and how good the
water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
Big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque
in and somehow when you talk
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings as the
whole family attended meetings
About Hollydale and even though you
remember your biographers never
understand your father's pain as he
sells his stock and another
And though your're poor it isn't
poverty that concerns you and
though they fought a lot
it isn't your father's drinking that
makes any difference but only that
Everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays
and very good Christmasses and I
really hope no white person ever has
cause to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they'll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy
Written by Nikki Giovanni
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