14-Year-Old Zaila Avant-Garde Becomes Scripps National Spelling Bee Champ

Zaila Avant-garde wasn’t focused on her place in history on Thursday when she became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 93 editions of the competition.

Instead, she was thinking about Bill Murray.

The 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, won the 2021 crown after correctly spelling murraya — a type of tree — that she associated with the famous comedian.

The only Black winner before her was Jody-Anne Maxwell, representing Jamaica in 1998.

Zaila will receive a $50,000 cash prize.


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