Nikki Giovanni reading and book signing, Jan. 13
Nikki Giovanni is one of this country’s most widely read poets and one of America’s most renowned poets worldwide. She will receive an honorary degree from the University of the South on Friday, Jan. 14, and will give a reading from her work at 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, in Convocation Hall. Open to the public; masks are required.
Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee; her family moved to Cincinnati when she was an infant, and she grew up spending time in both cities. As a student at Fisk University, she reinstituted the school’s chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), edited the literary magazine, and graduated magna cum laude in history. She moved to New York and self-published her first poetry book in 1968, and in the late 1960s and early ‘70s her lectures and poetry readings began to produce income. Her frequent appearances on the Black entertainment show SOUL!!, along with her extensive lecture tours, made her one of the most recognizable poets of the Black Arts Movement.
Giovanni has taught at The Ohio State University and the College of Mount St. Joseph and in 1987 began teaching at Virginia Tech, where in 1999 she was named a University Distinguished Professor. Since she has been at Virginia Tech, she has published two collections of essays, several illustrated children’s books (including the award-winning Rosa), and 10 volumes of poetry for adults. Giovanni has received numerous awards, including seven Image Awards from the N.A.A.C.P., the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry, and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. She continues to teach, write, and publish books. Her newest collection, Make Me Rain, was released in October of 2020. Giovanni’s poem “Knoxville, Tennessee” is arguably the single literary work most often associated with that city.