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Nikki Giovanni is without a doubt one of the most celebrated poets of the last 50 years, earning countless awards and accolades for her work. The Knoxville, Tenn. native was born on June 7, 1943.

Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Junior, but Nikki stuck after her sister reportedly began calling her the nickname at a young age. After graduating from Fisk University with a B.A. in History, Giovanni found herself teaching in Rutgers University in New Jersey after involving herself in the Black Arts Movement with the likes of Dr. Sonia Sanchez and James Baldwin among others.

The poet quickly established herself as a necessary voice in her genre, publishing over a dozen and a half collections. She also published a number of children’s books, along with a handful of recordings and other collaborative works.

Giovanni has won seven NAACP Image Awards, was named Woman of the Year by Ebony magazine in 1970, and was awarded the Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Today, Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University in the town of Blacksburg.

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