Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her B.A. at Fisk University, and completed postgraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and Columbia University School of Fine Arts. She has been a member of the faculty at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, since 1987. She was a major force in the community following the shootings there in 2007. In addition to her many collections of poetry, she is an accomplished spoken word artist and was nominated for a Grammy in 2004. Giovanni is also a lung cancer survivor.