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Duke Ellington on back of D.C. quarter

Feb. 24, 2009 at 10:09 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Jazz icon Duke Ellington is the first African-American musician on a circulating U.S. coin, his image on the District of Columbia quarter, the U.S. Mint said.

The District of Columbia commemorative quarter showing Ellington playing the piano will be introduced by U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy during a news conference at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, CNN reported

The District of Columbia quarter is among the six commemorative designs that will be circulated throughout 2009 and honoring the district and five U.S. territories -- Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Mint said earlier when announcing the commemorative quarters.

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, born in Washington, was selected to commemorate the District of Columbia over abolitionist Frederick Douglas and astronomer Benjamin Banneker. The coin's back also includes the the District's motto, "Justice for All," the U.S. Mint said.

Ellington composed thousands of songs, including standards such as "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Mood Indigo" and "Solitude." He performed with artists such as John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

He died in 1974 at age 75.

The first circulating coin to feature an African-American was the Missouri state quarter, which included the image of York, the slave who accompanied the Lewis and Clark exhibition, the mint said.

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