Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) announced today that Nikki Giovanni has been named the 2021-2022 Writer-in-Residence in the Toni Morrison Writing Program. The appointment will officially begin with a virtual series taking place September 27 – 29.
One of the most celebrated African American poets, Ms. Giovanni has won numerous awards, including the Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award. Named a “Living Legend” by Oprah Winfrey, her diverse body of work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, nonfiction essays, and children’s literature.
Giovanni’s early work gained attention as part of the Black Arts Movement; she was called the “Poet of the Black Revolution” because of her forceful and passionate writing about civil rights. Her varied activism has included providing support for other African American women writers. Giovanni currently serves as a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University.
The Toni Morrison Writing Program was established by PVAMU President Ruth Simmons. It seeks to bring visibility to the place of African American writing in the literary canon. Led by Provost Emerita and Professor E. Johanne Thomas-Smith, the program will feature writers reading from their works, conducting master classes, teaching, and mentoring other writers. The program will also focus on opportunities to develop the literary interests and talents of young writers. Components include a partnership with area high school English departments, an annual writing contest for K-12 students, and elementary school readings accompanied by informal book discussions with the author.
According to Dr. Thomas-Smith, “The opportunity for students to develop their voices as writers, thinkers, and leaders is immeasurably enhanced by having the tutelage of such a noted, gifted, caring literary notable as Nikki Giovanni.”
The Toni Morrison Writing Program at PVAMU was made possible via a substantial gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in early 2021. Scott was a student of Morrison’s during her time at Princeton and attributes much of her development as an author to Morrison’s mentorship. An official public launch is scheduled to take place at a later date in which special tribute will be made to the late Pulitzer Prize winner of world renown.