Tuesday, February 24, 2009

US Mint Unfamiliar with its Own Trivia (UPDATE: Correction below)

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that the new DC quarter features Duke Ellington, but I was puzzled by the US Mint's breathless assertion that it was their first coin to feature an African American. And, indeed, here's some trivia from their own web site:

The first coin to feature an African-American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar.

Not to mention the 1951 George Washington Carver/Booker T. coin and the 1996 commemorative silver dollar featuring Crispus Attucks, the reverse of which features three additional (anonymous) African Americans.

But, you know, whatever. How many media outlets will repeat this easily demonstrated error? Probably all of them.

But anyway, congrats to Duke Ellington, the seventh African American to appear on a US coin!

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I spoke to Michael White at the USM's Office of Public Affairs, and he assured me that their press materials stress that Ellington is the first African American to appear on a "regular", circulating coin, rather than a special commemorative, and that the error is (surprise!) CNN's.

UPDATE: CNN has extensively rewritten corrected its story.


Anonymous said...

It wasn't the mint that said that. The article was reported by CNN.

Peteykins said...

You get an "F" in reading comprehension. Here's the first sentence from CNN's article:

"Jazz legend Duke Ellington is the first African-American to appear on an American coin, the U.S. Mint says in introducing the latest in its line of state-themed quarters."

Anonymous said...

Great catch!

Anonymous said...

That 1951 coin was such a graphic design FAIL, it's no wonder they've chosen to forget about it.

And no offense to the memory of Duke Ellington, but he won over Frederick Douglass and Benjamin Banneker?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Banneker isn't exactly a household name.

Anonymous said...

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born in DC in 1899.
I'm sure that's why he features on the DC quarter.

Matthew Hubbard said...

Thanks for the update, Princess. Did you contact Mr. White or is he a Pony Pal to the rescue?

Peteykins said...

I contacted him, and he was gracious enough to return my call. He implied that I was one of many, which is hardly a surprise given the obsessive nature of coin collectors.

I also sent a note to CNN, but have you ever tried to do that? Wow, they make it really hard. And, of course, they rarely correct their mistakes.