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Sir Duke Is First Black Man on U.S. Coin

Sir Duke Is First Black Man on U.S. Coin

Published February 26, 2009

A U.S. coin now dons the image of true African-American royalty. Edward “Duke” Ellington, who during his illustrious career as a jazz musician and composer penned more than 3,000 songs and won 13 Grammys, became the first Black person to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin.

Among Ellington’s many classic tunes were such notables as "Satin Doll," "Perdido" and "Don't Get Around Much Any More." His "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," which helped usher in the Swing Era of jazz, appears on the "tails" side of the new D.C. quarter.

Ellington died in 1974 at the age of 75. George Washington is on the "heads" side, as is the norm with U.S. quarters.

The coin was issued to celebrate Ellington's birthplace, the District of Columbia. Also on the coin is the phrase "Justice for all."

The Mint rejected the first inscription choice of D.C. voters, which was "taxation without representation," in protest of the district's lack of voting representation in Congress.

Written by BET.com Staff

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