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Zaila Avant-garde is the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Jul 13 2021

Zaila Avant-garde is the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Last week, the Louisiana-based 14-year-old took home the cup and $50,000 cash prize after spelling the word “murraya,” (a.k.a. “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals”). The historic moment, where she carefully analyzed and dissected the word, was shared across social media and viewed millions of times garnering praise from Dr. Jill Biden, Bernice King, and many others. Prior to the Bee, Avant-garde had been spelling competitively for two years and has also set three Guinness world records for dribbling, bouncing, and juggling basketballs simultaneously—all before high school. In 2018, she even appeared in a commercial with NBA star Steph Curry where she showcased her basketball-playing skills. Avant-garde told Good Morning America: “You don’t really see too many African Americans doing too well in spelling bees, and that’s a bit sad, because it’s a really good thing and is a gate opener to being interested in education.” (NYTimesGMA)