Name at birth: Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr.
Nikki Giovanni is an African-American poet and essayist who came to prominence during the civil rights movement of the late 1960s. Born in Tennessee and raised in Ohio, she was educated at Fisk and Columbia universities. In the '60s she joined the Black Arts Movement and became one of the leading poets of the Black Power wing of activists. Giovanni had early fame for her poetry collections Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgement (1968) and Re: Creation (1970), and for her published conversations with writer James Baldwin (1973). Since then she has been a prolific writer, busy speaker, professor of English (at Virginia Tech) and outspoken social critic. She has received numerous honors and awards, including NAACP Image Awards and a Grammy nomination for her spoken-word CD The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (2002). Nikki Giovanni's works include the poems "Ego-Tripping" and "All Eyez On You" (on the death of rapper Tupac Shakur), and the collections My House (1972), Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978) and Love Poems (1997). She has also published books of poetry for children, including The Genie in the Jar and The Sun is So Quiet (both 1996).
Nikki Giovanni sports a “Thug Life” tattoo on her arm… After the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead, Giovanni reported that she had once had the alleged killer, Cho Sueng-Hui, as a student. His “intimidating” behavior was such that Giovanni had him removed from her class.