SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — A poet and one of the leading voices of the Blart Arts Movement, Nikki Giovanni is adding a new accolade to her list.

During the Roanoke College Class of 2023 Commencement Ceremony on May 6, Giovanni joined its ranks as the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Over her writing career, which has spanned more than five decades, Giovanni has earned several awards and accolades that celebrate the significance of her work.

Nikki Giovanni is a remarkable example of these three things,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok. “As a poet, teacher, and cultural icon, she bravely calls it like she sees it, challenging us to be better versions of ourselves—both as individuals and communities. Her poetry is a masterclass on what love looks like in all its forms—from friendship, quiet moments with nature, debilitating grief, and righteous anger towards injustice. It’s an honor to welcome her to the Roanoke family.” 

Giovanni published her first volume of poetry in 1968 and received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Harlem Arts Council. A year later she earned her Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University and is known as an early member of the Black Arts Movement.

Giovanni devoted most of her life to teaching and just recently retired as a professor from Virginia Tech after 35 years. She also taught at many other universities including Queens College and Ohio State University. Throughout her career, she completed over 11 illustrated children’s books, 10 albums or recordings, and several essays. One of her recent children’s books, “A Library” takes readers through her experience of going to the library as a child.

She has received an American Book Award, Langston Hughes Award, seven NAACP Image Awards, and a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Spoken-word Album.”

But her accomplishments don’t stop there.

Giovanni made history as the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award.

“The role of the poet in society is to tell the truth,” Giovanni said in an interview with Virginia Public Radio. “I’ve not been afraid to say it.”