World-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni will deliver the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture at the university on Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Chapel. The lecture honors the late Dr. Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first African Americans to enroll at UGA and receive baccalaureate degrees.
Over the past 30 years, Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books and three collections of essays. Her writings focus on the individual-specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others.
Her book Racism 101 includes bold, controversial essays about the situation of Americans on all sides of various race issues. The Knoxville, Tenn., native is known for her outspokenness, which is reflected in her writings and her spoken presentations.
Her three most recent volumes of poetry, Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, were winners of the NAACP Image Award in 1998, 2000 and 2003 respectively. The “Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection,” a spoken-word CD, was a finalist for the 2003 Grammy Award in the category of spoken word.
She has received a host of awards, including “Woman of the Year” awards from Ebony, Mademoiselle and Ladies Home Journal magazines. She has received 21 honorary doctorates and has earned governors’ awards in the arts from both Tennessee and Virginia.
Giovanni has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor, since 1987.
Holmes and Hunter enrolled at UGA in January of 1961 and graduated in 1963. Holmes received a degree in science and enrolled as the first African American at the Emory University School of Medicine. At the time of his death in 1995, Holmes was an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta and associate dean of the Emory medical school. He also served as chairman of the orthopedic unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
Hunter-Gault received a journalism degree and wrote for the New York Times for eight years. She later was a reporter for PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and was chief Africa correspondent for National Public Radio. She is currently CNN International bureau chief in Johannesburg, South Africa.