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What Should Appear on the D.C. Quarter?

The city is getting its very own quarter. Designs of a potential D.C. quarter featuring Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker and Duke Ellington will be sent to the U.S. Mint, which will hold a public vote before announcing a winner.

By editors  |  May 2, 2008; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Questions  
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This is ridiculous. *None* of the three should be on the quarter (I guess this is a lost cause, though). The design of the DC quarter should reflect what DC *is*. Most of the people who live in DC have probably never even *heard* of Benjamin Banneker or Frederick Douglass. DC is the capital of the country, and the design of the quarter should show something related to that.

Posted by: jaded | May 2, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I disagree. Everyone knows that DC is the Capitol of the US. Several of its monuments are on the currency already. If you look at the other state quarters, they reflect the *local* lore, custom, history, etc. I like the fact that the DC quarter will reflect one of its local, African-American, historical citizens. Perhaps when the quarter is issued, folks in DC and around the country will take the time to Google or Wikipedia Banneker, Douglas or Ellington and educate themselves. Too bad it can't say taxation without representation.

Posted by: DCmom | May 2, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Umm, despite what you may think DC is still a 75-80% minority city. Having grown up here when it was probably a 90% minority city, you learn quite well of Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker and Duke Ellington, as a native son.

You need to educate yourself! maybe you should visit the Frederick doulgas home that is a federal park and national historic site. Maybe you should read of the planning and design of DC and learn about Banneker. I am quite sure the Duke ellington piece is the easiest for you. Or maybe we should speak to local character of DC that is white friendly and then you would be at ease. there' no need for DC to put a picture of the federal mall or monuments on it's coin.

Posted by: Must be a "jaded" fool | May 2, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Can you guess how many other state quarters have an actual person depicted on their design? Five do...and, in general, they are pretty famous people - Washington, Lincoln, John Muir, Helen Keller. But there is also Caesar Rodney of Delaware...not so famous. DC can and should do better than these proposed quarter designs.

Posted by: Miss the Mark | May 2, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

My humble opinion is that the coin should show the Capital Building and say NATION'S CAPITAL.

TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION would be the best but that proposal was shot down in flames.

It is scandalous that after all these years DC still has no voting memeber on the floor.

Posted by: Paul Revere | May 2, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Banneker because, unlike Douglas and Ellington, he's not a household word (regardless of Jaded's ridiculous assertion to the contrary) and it would be more of an educational opportunity than would Fred and Duke.

Posted by: eo mcmars | May 2, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Miss the Mark,
I'm not sure what the number of other quarters that have a specific person on the image has to do with our quarter. As a lifelong DC resident, I am glad that we have the opportunity to showcase something about our city that doesn't have to do with the Federal presence here. I am also proud that we have some "pretty famous"-and if they're not, they certainly should be-citizens that represent some of the finest qualities of our city and our country. And, as DCMom said, maybe having Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker, or Duke Ellington on the quarter will get more people to learn about their contributions to our culture and our country. I had no idea who Caesar Rodney was until I got curious about the Delaware quarter and looked him up. And that's something to encourage!

Posted by: Go Frederick! | May 2, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Much as I admire Ellington, Banneker, and Douglass, I'd prefer to see the quarter have a picture of our most famous and beloved politician, Marion Barry, captioned with the saying he is most well known for:
B.... set me up.

Posted by: Most Famous | May 2, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

from these choices, Frederick Douglass. DC's position as switching points on the Underground Railroad are too important to ignore. Also, Maryland lays claim to Banneker, which DQs him for me at least.

Posted by: got to be | May 2, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

These three proposals are non-starters. For one thing, all are only minor historical figures. For another, DC has many fine alternatives to choose from. And this has nothing to do with race either. But my favorite would be composer John Philip Sousa.

Posted by: Reality | May 2, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Frederick Douglass is not a "minor historical figure."

Posted by: EdTheRed | May 2, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

John Philip Sousa, on the other hand...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Just leave it blank, with only "DC" and "1801"

or put Douglass....

"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

Frederick Douglass, 1857

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

How about Marion Berry pulling on a crack pipe ?

Posted by: Been There | May 2, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Who are all these people who don't know who Frederick Douglas or Duke Ellington are? If you made it through high school, these ought to be at least vaguely familiar names. I don't envy the artists, trying to look for something iconic in DC that isn't also "federal city."

Posted by: kt | May 2, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Frederick Douglass is not a "minor historical figure." He is one of this country's greatest heroes and he continues to be revered here in this country and around the world. He is certainly deserving of this honor because of the contributions he has made to the cause of freedom we all enjoy in this country today.

Posted by: Sandra | May 3, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Those who are complaining about the choices on the DC quarter are obviously NOT native Washingtonians, otherwise they would realize the significance of Banneker, Douglass and Ellington. Case closed.

Posted by: vliciouslady | May 5, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Man, if you have never heard of Frederick Douglass, you have a treat in store. He was big-time. Just read one of Douglass's autobiographies (at the time, it was apparently okay for someone to write more than one). Great reading and hugely eye-opening.

Or, if you don't have time for one of his books, at least try wikipedia. That should bring you up to speed.

A leading abolitionist writer and lecturer who was born a slave and escaped to freedom. One of our first black US diplomats (to Haiti and later to the Dominican Republic). An early feminist, bridging the divide between those fighting for racial and gender civil rights! He ran as VP candidate with a woman as the presidential candidate (third party, needless to say). A tireless advocate for blacks to enlist during the Civil War, on the side of the Union, of course. A newspaper publisher and editor. And that just begins to tell the tale.

Having double-checked wikipedia to make sure I'm in the ballpark, I note that at least he was called the Sage of Anacostia or the Lion of Anacostia, so that's a somewhat stronger DC connection than the other two. I agree there must have been another non-biographical option out there somewhere (maybe a scene on the Potomac River with the Kennedy Center and a bridge?). But of the three, he's definitely got my vote.

Posted by: Douglass Fan | May 5, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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