College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Centers & Institutes > DePaul Humanities Center > Events > My Brilliant Pen Pal > Nikki Giovanni (SQ 2021)
“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.”
—Nikki Giovanni, "Nikki-Rosa" (1968)
Nikki Giovanni is a poet, essayist, and University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. She began publishing her work in the late ‘60s, after graduating with honors from Fisk University in 1967. Her first two collections appeared in 1968, Black Feeling, Black Talk and Black Judgment, the same year she received a prestigious fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Among the manifold collections she has published since are three New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers, a rare distinction among poets.
Giovanni has been a practitioner of an explicitly Black poetics throughout her career, and was involved with the Black Arts Movement from its inception as one of its foremost authors. In 1970 she founded a publishing cooperative, NikTom, to support and promote the work of African American women writers, among them fellow poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans. She also began writing poetry for children in the ‘70s, including Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People (1973) and Vacation Time (1980).
A seven-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award and the first recipient of The Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, she has been involved in activism throughout her career as a public intellectual, often appearing on camera to discuss contemporary social and political issues. She taught at Queens College, Rutgers University, and Ohio State before arriving at Virginia Tech in 1987. Giovanni was named one of “25 Living Legends” by Oprah Winfrey in 2005.
"We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained."