Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni, Jr. (born June 7, 1943) is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. One of the world’s most well-known African-American poets, her work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and nonfiction essays, and covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature. She has won numerous awards, including the Langston Hughes Medal, the NAACP Image Award, and has been nominated for a Grammy Award, for her Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. Additionally, she has recently been named as one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.”
Giovanni gained initial fame in the late 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement. Influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement of the period, her early work provides a strong, militant African-American perspective, leading one writer to dub her the “Poet of the Black Revolution.” During the 1970s, she began writing children’s literature, and co-founded a publishing company, NikTom,Ltd to provide an outlet for other African American women writers. Over subsequent decades, her works discussed social issues, human relationships, and hip-hop. Poems such as “Knoxville, Tennessee,” and “Nikki-Rosa” have been frequently re-published in anthologies and other collections.
Giovanni has taught at Queens College, Rutgers, and Ohio State, and is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. Following the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, she delivered a chant-poem at a memorial for the shooting victims.
Dorothy Jean Dandridge (November 9, 1922 – September 8, 1965) was an American film and theatre actress, singer and dancer. She is perhaps best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. Dandridge performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. During her early career, she performed as a part of The Wonder Children, later The Dandridge Sisters and appeared in a succession of films, usually in uncredited roles. In 1959, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Porgy and Bess. She is the subject of the 1999 HBO biographical film, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. She has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Dandridge was married and divorced twice, first to dancer Harold Nicholas (the father of her daughter, Harolyn Suzanne) and then to hotel owner Jack Denison. Dandridge died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 42.
Robin René Roberts (born November 23, 1960) is an American television broadcaster. Roberts is the anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America.
After growing up in Mississippi and attending Southeastern Louisiana University, Roberts was a sports anchor for local TV and radio stations. Roberts was a sportscaster on ESPN for 15 years (1990–2005). She became co-anchor on Good Morning America in 2005. She has been treated for breast cancer and for myelodysplastic syndrome.
Though born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Robin Roberts grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi, where she played basketball and tennis, among other sports. She attended Pass Christian High School and graduated as the class of 1979 salutatorian. She is the daughter of Lucimarian (née Tolliver) and Colonel Lawrence E. Roberts.
In a 2006 presentation to the assembled student body at Abilene Christian University, Roberts credited her parents as cultivating the “three ‘D’s: Discipline, Determination, and ‘De Lord’.” She is the youngest of four, following siblings Sally-Ann, Lawrence, Jr. (nicknamed Butch), and Dorothy. Her father was a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen.