AP Literature and Composition
10 February 2014
Nikki Giovanni, born as Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, is an extremely extraordinary poet whose writing style and themes of her literary works were very inspiring during the Civil Rights Movement. She is considered one of the greatest revolutionary writers in American history of all time. Giovanni was born June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Shortly after, her parents moved Giovanni and her older sister to Cincinnati, Ohio. From a very young age, Giovanni always had a confident, forceful, and independent personality, matching the qualities off her maternal grandmother. On numerous occasions, she has credited her grandmother for instilling in her passion for civil rights, which explains some of her poetry and prose (Mitchell 1). Her attitude led her to be outspoken and prominent during the Black Power and Black Arts Movements (Bader). Giovanni, a strong activist for civil rights and equality, made great strides in literature by being courageous and outspoken in her writing. She uses a very blunt writing style in her literature, as well as having common themes of thwarted hopes and loneliness and love. Although Nikki Giovanni is viewed as a strong African American woman by most, some critics argued that she did nothing for the world of literature because her writing is too simplistic and inconsistent. Giovanni displays a blunt writing style in a fair number of her poems. Being blunt means being uncompromisingly forthright. People who are blunt are often viewed as rude, seeing that they say whatever is on their mind at any given moment. For the most part, based on her poetry, Giovanni did not try to sugar coat things to make them sound any sweeter because that is just not the type of person she wanted to portray herself as. Through her use of this writing style, she showed that she was not afraid to go against what was common. The black power and black arts movement emerged right after the civil rights movement. "Black Power," in the 1960s civil rights context, advocated armed self-defense against and separation from racist America, as well as pride in African-American culture. Many critics have called the black arts movement racially exclusive. Some even admit that this movement inspired a great number of African Americans, such as Giovanni, to write and paved the way for other authors and artists to resist assimilation and celebrate their own history and culture. This movement was at its peak around the 1960’s. African American men and women, including Giovanni, organized and led the movement. They pursued their goals through legal means, negotiations, petitions, and nonviolent protest. This was one of the largest movements of the twentieth century and of all time (Wattley). Black Feeling Black Talk and Black Judgment were Giovanni’s first volumes of books that she published in 1968. In these poems, Giovanni expressed her opinion of the revolution by supporting open violence and also by expressing her intolerant attitude for change and freedom (“Nikki Giovanni 181”). These novels were a compilation of many revolutionary poems. After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Giovanni published these two works later in the same year. In her poem, “The True Import of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro”, Giovanni showed how she was not holding her tongue for anyone. According to the lyrics of the poem “The True Import of Present Dialogue, Black vs. Negro”, it would be logical to think that Giovanni was furious that Dr. King had been killed and how her own race was acting as cowards by following the commands of whites. She was also concerned that black men were being sent out of the country to fight other men, when they could not even fight for their freedom at home (Lee 182). In this poem she repeatedly says, “Can you kill a nigger/ can a nigger kill” and “We ain’t got to prove...
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