Black Women Who Slayed History: Nikki Giovanni

This Black History Month, we’re highlighting the black woman who helped make our world what it is today. Today, we honor Nikki Giovanni.

Nikki Giovanni’s life exemplifies the phrase: do you.

She was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943. She calls herself a high school dropout but only because she left to start college early at Fisk University.

She struggled to adjust and was expelled, but she knew education was super important. So she drove down to Fisk and told the dean of women that she straight up messed up and to readmit her. And it worked. Now, she has honorary degrees from over twenty colleges and universities.

Her earliest work was strongly influenced by the Black Power and Civil Rights movements. Nikki’s writing has been described as “radical” and “militant,” even though her preferred adjective is just “good.” Because of the content, nobody wanted to publish her at first so she started her own company and published her damn self. If you’ll notice, Nikki is pretty much either going to find a way or make one.

Her company, NikTom, publishes and celebrates African-American authors specifically. She produced, designed, and regularly appeared on the talk show “Soul!” which was centered on political expression, black art, and culture. She was good friends with Rosa freakin’ Parks. She’s just unapologetically black and thriving.

Nikki calls herself a truth teller. Her work, which discusses themes like gender expectations and social justice, is described as defiant and angry and not only is she fine with that assessment, she embraces it. Growing up in a loving but problematic home, she writes about the nuances of black families. In one of her most famous poems, Nikki-Rosa, she says, “I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they never understand 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.”

And even though nobody wanted to publish her at first, now she has 7 NAACP Image awards, a Grammy nomination, and 3 of her books have been on the New York Times Bestseller List and Los Angeles Times Bestseller List. Started from the bottom, now she’s here. She also received honors from both the National Council of Negro Women and the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. She’s aging like fine wine and she thinks everyone should try it.

For more on Nikki Giovanni, click here.

And for more black women who slayed history read:

Black Women Who Slayed History: Diane Nash
Black Women Who Slayed History: Shirley Chisholm
Black Women Who Slayed History: Ida B. Wells

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