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Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee during 1943 and was raised in a family of strong African-American heritage.She gained popularity during the 1960s and 1970s when the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction.Yet she also ties this experience to her ancestral roots in Africa.
The connection between her heritage and the Civil Rights Movement was a great source of inspiration for her poetry.
Through her frank and vivid poetic language, she expresses the joys and pains of being black in America.
A literary and cultural renaissance was emerging at Fisk, as writers and other artists of color collaborated in cultural projects that explored and delineated the possibilities of Black identity. in history in 1968 and went on to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University in New York Giovanni’s first published volumes of poetry grew out of her response to the assassinations of such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy, and the pressing need she saw to raise awareness of the plight and the rights of Black people.
In addition to serving as editor of the campus literary magazine and participating in the Fisk Writers Workshop, Giovanni worked to restore the Fisk chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). sold over ten thousand copies in its first year alone.
As she travelled to speaking engagements at colleges around the country, Giovanni was often hailed as one of the leading Black poets of the new Black renaissance.
The prose poem “Nikki-Rosa,” Giovanni’s reminiscence of her childhood in a close-knit African American home, was first published in The poem expanded her appeal and became her most beloved and most anthologized work.
During this time, she also made television appearances, later published as conversations with Margaret Walker and James Baldwin.
In 1969, Giovanni took a teaching position at Rutgers University. Giovanni’s work shifted focus after the birth of her son and she made several recordings of her poetry set against a gospel or jazz backdrop.
Giovanni’s later works for children include (2005) was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Giovanni’s popularity as a speaker and lecturer increased along with her success as a poet and children’s author.