Nikki Giovanni Additional Biography


(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

0111201159-Giovanni.jpg Nikki Giovanni (Jill Krementz) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Early Life

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when she was still an infant. Because her grandparents remained in Knoxville, she spent short periods there during her formative years and considered Knoxville her home. As a teenager, she returned to Knoxville to live with her grandparents and attended Austin High School. She was heavily influenced both socially and intellectually by her grandmother and her high school English teacher. Because of their efforts, Giovanni entered Fisk University in 1960 at age sixteen.

The 1960’s

Giovanni proved to be a serious student with strong political views, concentrating on writing and politics. At Fisk, she met and worked with novelist and writer-in-residence John O. Killens, a leader of the Black Arts movement. In addition to editing the university literary publication, she helped reinstate the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had earlier been banned.

After earning her degree in 1966, she returned to Cincinnati, where she wrote many of the poems for her first published collection, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968). At this time, Giovanni edited Conversation, a local publication, and organized the first Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati. Following the successful festival, Giovanni became acquainted with leaders of several important movements within the African American community. She did not always agree with them, however, especially concerning violence, and often became embroiled in controversy.

Giovanni published her second volume of poems, Black Judgement, in 1969, with financial assistance from the Harlem Council of the Arts. By this time, she had become firmly entrenched as a poet and voice of the ordinary African Americans of the urban areas of the United States.

Later Life

Giovanni has remained a controversial figure. Although she gained a level of popularity virtually unknown for an African American female poet, Giovanni has endured both professional and personal attacks from people in...

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

Nikki Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni in Knoxville, Tennessee, but grew up in Wyoming and Lincoln Heights, Ohio, suburbs of Cincinnati, where she made her home. She described her childhood as “quite happy” in the poem “Nikki-Rosa,” and her reminiscences in Gemini testify to her devotion to relatives, especially her sister Gary (who nicknamed her “Nikki”) and her grandparents, John Brown Watson, one of the first graduates of Fisk University, and his wife, Louvenia, whose strength of character she admired and emulated. Giovanni herself entered Fisk at the age of sixteen and was graduated magna cum laude in 1967 with a bachelor of arts degree in history. At Fisk, her independent spirit led to her being...

(The entire section is 710 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni (jee-oh-VAH-nee) has been nicknamed the “princess of Black Poetry” because of her literary achievement as well as her Civil Rights activism and the artistic renaissance that grew out of the youthful, militant dimension of 1960’s protest. Her early career illustrates the close connection between Black Power politics and a radical black presence in the arts.

Giovanni is the daughter of Jones (Gus) and Yolande Cornelia Watson Giovanni, two social workers who met while attending Knoxville College. Her grandparents, John Brown (Book) and Louvenia Terrell Watson, helped to inculcate in her a strong sense of “blackness” and southern roots in Tennessee, even after Nikki and her...

(The entire section is 892 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, but she grew up in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, a predominantly black community. Her happy...

(The entire section is 262 words.)