Giovanni, Nikki (1943- )

The Nikki Giovanni collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, subject files, printed material, professional material, personal memorabilia, audio, video, artwork, and other material. 

The collection includes drafts of several hundred poems by Giovanni, dating from the late 1960s to the 2000s. These are often photocopies, carbons, computer printouts, or galley proofs; many items have been corrected by hand. Also present are manuscripts for collections of Giovanni’s poems, as well as other works. Titles include: Poem of Angela Yvonne Davis (1970); Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement On My First Twenty Five Years of Being a Black Poet (1971); The Problem of Play (1972); Poetic Equation: Conversation with Margaret Walker and Nikki Giovanni (1974); The Women and the Men (1975); Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978); A Dialog: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni (1978); Racism 101 (1994); Grandmothers: A Multicultural Anthology, edited by Giovanni (1994); Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, edited by Giovanni (1995); The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995 (1996); Love Poems (1997); Grandfathers, edited by Giovanni (1999); Quilting the Black Eyed Pea (2002); The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 (2003); The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni (prose;2003); Acolytes (2007); Chasing Utopia: Poetic Ideas and Prosaic Dreams (2008-2012); Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices, edited by Nikki Giovanni; Road Rage Blues; A Warm Hearth Seeker; and others. 

Other manuscripts by Giovanni in the collection include drafts of some short fiction; book reviews, newspaper columns, and other non-fiction articles by Giovanni, for Negro Digest, Mademoiselle, Saturday Review, Viva, Brothers and Sisters, and other publications; pieces written for a column called “The Root of the Matter”; contributions and forwards for various books; contributions to collected works of essays and poetry; interviews with various individuals, including James Baldwin (for SOUL!), Prof. James MacGregor of Williams College, Gladys Knight, and Zhenya Yevtushenko (for Encore); and early writings by Giovanni, such as high school papers and other schoolwork from 1958-1960 and writings from Giovanni’s time at Fisk University in the 1960s (including a number of poems). 

Other juvenilia includes short writings and drawings by Giovanni, school records, report cards, yearbooks from the 1950s, and other material. 

Manuscripts by others in the collection include drafts and other related material for Conversations with Nikki Giovanni, by Virginia Fowler; and drafts and/or proofs for Death of Innocence by Mamie Till-Mobley; The Edited Papers of Edward A. Long, by Anna Fariello; Rap Music and Street Consciousness, by Cheryl Keyes; Harvest Time: Selected Poems, 1988-2000, by Victor DiSuvero, Domestic Work, by Natasha Trethewey; The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver; Another Way Home, by Ronne Hartfield; Mending the World, by Rosemarie Robotham; Continuum: New and Selected Poems, by Mari Evans; Eliza’s Freedom Road, by Jerdine Nolen; “An Ode to Nikki Giovanni,” by Jasmine Stein; and other works. 

Correspondence in the collection is extensive, dating primarily from 1970-2014, with some dating back to 1964. Much of the correspondence, especially the later letters, consists of fan mail to Giovanni from various readers. Notable correspondents include Arthur Ashe, James Baldwin, Barry Beckham, Ray Blanton (Governor of Tennessee), Julian Bond, Gwendolyn Brooks, H. Rap Brown, Shirley Chisholm, Bill Clinton, Jackie Early, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Leslie Fiedler, Roberta Flack, Katharine Graham, Alex Haley, William Randolph Heart III, John O. Killens, Jerzy Kosinski, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, Lindsay Patterson, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, and Charles Rangel (Congressman from New York).

There are numerous photographs in the collection. Most of the photos include images of Giovanni, ranging from professional portraits to informal snapshots. Also present are many photos of Giovanni’s friends and family. Images of others include Julian Bond, H. Rap Brown, and Lena Horne. Also present are several photos of Africa, including Giovanni’s program at Enugu, Nigeria in 1973.

Subject files in the collection primarily consist of material regarding Giovanni’s work teaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, also known as Virginia Tech. Also present are general clipping, research, and office files compiled by Giovanni on various topics. These subjects include the NAACP; Cape Cod Community College; teaching; her lecture tour for RACISM 101; itineraries and schedules; lectures; Cabrini College; Fisk University Jubilee; bills; and legal issues.

Printed material in the collection includes hundreds of issues of magazines, literary journals, and other periodicals featuring published poems and articles by Giovanni. These items date from the 1970s to the 2010s, with some writings appearing in several different publications. Periodicals include Urban World, Encore, Mademoiselle, New York Times Book Review, Miami Herald, San Francisco Examiner, The Washington Star, Gig, The Louisville Defender, Virginia Tech Magazine, Black Creation, Negro Digest, Family Circle, Catalyst, American Poetry Review, Tuesday Home Magazine, GQ, Essence, V Magazine, San Francisco Examiner, Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, VuvaCincinnati Post, Collegiate Times, Ebony, Boston Globe, Indianapolis Star, Boston Herald American, and others. In addition, there are several articles about Giovanni from various magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Ebony, and Newsweek.

Also present are printed items by other authors. Some of the more notable pieces include a signed broadside of “Song From Buffalo,” by Leslie A. Fiedler (1975); and articles by and about Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander. Other printed items include countless programs for and other items which mention Giovanni’s live appearances around the country since the late 1960s; advertisements for her appearances and her written work; posters, including advertisements for performances by Giovanni (1969-1976) and posters of poems by Giovanni and others; book reviews of Giovanni’s works; book jackets; and other items.

Professional material in the collection includes datebooks, schedules, itineraries, Rolodex cards, address books, daily planners, and other similar items.

Personal memorabilia includes material regarding Giovanni’s family members, including her son Thomas, her mother Yolande, her father Jones (“Gus”) Giovanni, her sister Gary, as well as items related to other relatives and close friends. Also present are scrapbooks and historical memorabilia pertaining to the life of Giovanni and her family. These items include photos from the 1800’s, photo postcards, newspaper clippings, guest books, and other items from the 1960s and 1970s about Giovanni’s growing reputation as a poet, juvenilia and more. In addition, the collection holds honors presented to Nikki Giovanni, including plaques, certificates, medals and pins, hoods worn while receiving honorary degrees. There are many awards in the collection spread throughout the boxes. Also, there are hundreds of souvenirs and various ephemera and miscellany collected by Giovanni, such as a United States flag flown at the inauguration of Barack Obama (2008).

Audio recordings in the collection include various recordings of Giovanni reading poetry and giving talks. There are several reel-to-reel tapes dating from 1967 to 1976, including Giovanni reciting poems, giving speeches, and speaking for radio broadcasts and interviews (not all the recordings are of Giovanni). There are numerous cassette tapes, including poetry readings, conference appearances, public talks, interviews, and music; these date from 1975 to about 2013. Compact discs in the collection include some studio recordings of Giovanni, including the first pilot of “For Kid’s Sake! Radio”; a master CD titled “Nikki Giovanni”; Celebrations: An African Odyssey; and the albums Blowout Comb (1994), by Digable Planets, and Mantra Mode (1991), by Abdullah Ibrahim.

Video recordings in the collection consist almost totally of VHS video tapes, with some Beta tapes included as well. The tapes include Giovanni appearing on various television programs aired on CNN, BET and other channels; and Giovanni giving readings, talks, and interviews at universities and cities around the country, from the 1980s to 2010s.

Artwork in the collection mainly consists of sketches and paintings representing Giovanni. Also present are prints by various artists, as well as other miscellaneous works.

Other material in the collection includes electronic media, consisting of CD-ROMs and DVDs with primarily personal content, such as photographs and videos of friends, family, and holiday or birthday events; scrapbooks, with material regarding artwork, events, and travels; legal material; and financial material.

Notable Figures
1. Giovanni, Nikki
Associated Subjects
1. Women's Studies Collections -- Poetry Subject Guide
2. African American Collections -- Poetry Subject Guide
3. Literary Collections Subject Guide
4. LGBT Subject Guide
5. Poetry Subject Guide
6. Helen Deutsch Research Section
7. African Americans poets
8. American literature -- African American authors
9. Poems
10. Poets, American
11. American literature -- Women authors
12. African American women authors
13. Women authors, American
14. American literature--20th century
15. African American women poets
16. Audiotapes
17. Photographs
18. Diaries