14-Year-Old Becomes First Black American To Win Scripps National Spelling Bee

Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Harvey, Louisiana, has made history as the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, sponsored by a division of The E. W. Scripps Company SSP.

What Happened: Avant-garde outlasted 208 youthful competitors and scored her victory for correctly spelling “Murraya,” defined as “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”

Avant-garde told NPR she became familiar with the word “murraya” after hearing it in the Bill Murray film “Lost in Translation.”

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What Else Happened: Avant-garde is the second Black winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee; Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica won the tournament in 1998. She received a $50,000 prize for her victory during the tournament's finals on Thursday at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Avant-garde is no stranger to the limelight as she also holds three Guinness world records for basketball feats.

Photo: Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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