Photo: Robin Holland

Nikki Giovanni


World-renowned poet, commentator, activist, educator, and author of some 30 books for adults and children, Nikki Giovanni has been called a “National Treasure” and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Living Legends.”

Born in Tennessee, Giovanni grew up in an all-black Ohio suburb. She graduated with honors from Fisk University in 1968 and later attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

Many of Giovanni’s books have received honors and awards. Her autobiography, Gemini, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea were all honored with NAACP Image Awards. Blues: For All the Changes reached #4 on The Los Angeles Times best-seller list. Her children’s picture book, Rosa, about the civil rights legend Rosa Parks, reached #3 on The New York Times best-seller list and became a Caldecott Honors Book.

Giovanni’s spoken word recording, Truth Is On Its Way, on which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a Top 100 album and received the Best Spoken Word Album award from the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. Her album, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, was nominated for a Grammy Award.

The recipient of some 25 honorary degrees, Giovanni has been named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle, The Ladies Home Journal, and Ebony magazine. The inaugural recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, she was also awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry.

Giovanni is the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies and a University Distinguished Professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Her most recent book is Bicycles: Love Poems (2010).