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Alora Young

Alora Young

Age: 18
Hometown: Brentwood, TN

Literature: “Walking Gentry Home”

About Alora

Alora Young is the Youth Poet Laureate of the Southern United States and has been recognized for her work as a Presidential Scholar of the Arts, a two-time TEDx Speaker, a Scholastic gold medalist, a YoungArts winner in spoken word, a recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, Spring Robinson literary prize, the Lin Arison excellence in writing award, and the International Human Rights Day rising advocate award.

Alora will attend Swarthmore College in the fall where she plans to study English.

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“Being a Davidson Fellow has been a personal aspiration of mine for many years and represents my dedication to the craft of literature. I hope one black girl will read my project and see that she is a part of history, that she matters, and I hope she feels less alone.”

Project Description

Walking chronicles the lineage of my family in West Tennessee from the 1700s to the present day. Each section tells the story of a descendant’s life, through poems.

Deeper Dive

This book is the only piece of literature to ever acknowledge the existence of Halls, Tennessee. Much like Tina Turner’s song, Nutbush, of which my aunts were the teachers referenced, her words were the saving grace of a rapidly fading place. This is more than a book to me. It’s a grimoire. It’s the knowledge of the lives my ancestors led, and it’s finally giving them the voices they have been consistently denied. I believe it is black girlhood throughout American history explained in poetry.

Pieces in this book extend as far back as my sophomore year of high school (2018-2019), but the bulk of this project was completed between March and December of 2020. In addition to genealogy research, I spent a total of 23 hours interviewing every female family member on my mother’s side via Zoom, as well as my uncle and grandfather.

To organize my findings I used several Google Drive folders and a series of color-coded envelopes to keep everything in order. I have a designated symbol related to WALKING that I added to the title of all documents in order to make them easy to search and organize. A major difficulty I faced was discovering how many of my family members were dead. This posed a problem because black communities often use oral history to keep track of records and stories.

Another was the lack of records kept in regards to the enslaved, as they were cataloged as property and were therefore rarely named in documents. It was an emotionally grueling process to search through the slave papers for my ancestors and even more emotionally taxing to read the last will and testament of their enslaver.

The interviews with some of the living older women in my family posed a difficulty, as many of them were in a state of mental decline. This work was completed almost entirely in my bedroom due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This work was overseen by my literary agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency, and my most notably, professor Learotha Williams of Tennessee State University. He helped me find resources about black history in Nashville and reviewed my works for historical accuracy.


What is your favorite Olympic sport?


Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or to the future to meet your descendants?

Back to meet my ancestors.

What are the top three foreign countries you’d like to visit?

Tuvalu, Vietnam, Argentina

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In The News

Nashville, Tenn. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2021 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Alora Young of Brentwood. Young won a $25,000 scholarship for her project, Walking Gentry Home. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a 2021 scholarship winner.

Download the full press release here