Nikki Giovanni will serve as the speaker for Winston-Salem State’s (WSSU) 2013 commencement on Saturday, May 18 at 9:45 a.m. in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“One of the most widely-read American poets, Nikki Giovanni’s outspokenness in her writing and lectures has highlighted her commitment to civil rights and equality,” said Chancellor Donald Reaves. “Since publishing her first book of poetry in 1968, she has become a strong voice for justice and she is truly a dynamic speaker.”
Giovanni, the author of some 30 books for both adults and children, launched her career with her first book of poetry, “Black Feeling Black Talk,” in 1968, which she followed with a second book in 1969. Since then, she has won numerous awards for her writing and her spoken word recordings also have achieved widespread recognition and honors. Additionally, she received the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry and was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award. She has been named woman of the year by Mademoiselle magazine, The Ladies Home Journal and Ebony magazine.
Giovanni graduated with honors from Fisk University in 1968 and attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has been on the faculty since 1987.
On the recommendation of Reaves, the WSSU Board of Trustees voted to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to Giovanni in recognition of her literary work, as well as her roles as an educator and an activist. The award will be presented during the graduation ceremony.