Senate Passes Portman, Brown Bipartisan Resolution Honoring Northeast Ohio Native, MacNolia Cox

September 16, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate passed U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan resolution yesterday honoring the life, legacy, and achievements of northeast Ohio native MacNolia Cox, who in 1936 became one of the first two Black students to compete in the National Spelling Bee as finalists. That same year, MacNolia became the first Black participant to win the Akron Spelling Bee at the Akron Armory. She helped inspire students like Zaila Avant-garde, who earlier this summer became the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution to honor the life and legacy of Ohio native MacNolia Cox,” said Senator Portman. “As a 13-year old girl, MacNolia traveled to Washington, D.C. as one of the first Black students to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee where she endured segregation and racial discrimination. MacNolia’s determination to display her talents, all while many did not want to see her succeed, continues to encourage and inspire young students of color today.”

“As the first of two Black students to compete in the National Spelling Bee as a finalist, MacNolia Cox was a trailblazer for those who would follow in her footsteps,” said Senator Brown. “The law required MacNolia to travel in segregated train cars to get to the Spelling Bee and custom required her to sit at a separate table from the other white finalists. MacNolia’s perseverance drove her through the barriers that had been placed in front of her and went on to finish fifth overall, inspiring young students of color today and every day. Let us continue to tell her story for future generations.”

September 12th, 2021 marked the 45th anniversary of MacNolia’s passing.

Full text of the resolution can be read here.