Poet Nikki Giovanni to get city honor

Sandra ClarkInside 640, Our Town Stories

Knoxville native Nikki Giovanni will be honored at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 23, when Mayor Madeline Rogero and other city officials unveil a historic marker near the entrance to the Cal Johnson Recreation Center, 507 Hall of Fame Drive.


The acclaimed author, educator and poet will read her “Knoxville, Tennessee” poem during the ceremony, according to a press release from the city.

Giovanni was born at the Old Knoxville General Hospital. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent summers with her grandparents at their home at 400 Mulvaney St. (since renamed Hall of Fame Drive). She and her sister played at Cal Johnson Park. She was educated at Austin High School and graduated with honors from Fisk University, and as a writer has won the Langston Hughes Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, seven NAACP Image Awards and dozens of additional recognitions.

One of her best-known essays is “400 Mulvaney Street,” and it recounts her grief at the loss of her grandparents’ house and the surrounding African-American neighborhood to a Knoxville “urban renewal” project in the 1960s. Cal Johnson Park is all that remained of the cherished Mulvaney Street of Giovanni’s childhood.

The historic marker honors the location of Giovanni’s grandparents’ home and recognizes the loss to her family and to many other African-American families.

Anyone needing a disability accommodation to attend the unveiling should contact the city’s ADA coordinator, Stephanie Cook, at scook@knoxvilletn.gov or 865-215-2034.

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