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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 19, May 11, 2008, Article 12

EDITORIAL CRITIQUES WASHINGTON, D.C. QUARTER DESIGNS

[On Tuesday an article in Washington Post critiqued the
proposed designs for the Washington, D.C. quarter, noting
that none of the people chosen for depiction on the quarter
has really close ties to the city.  -Editor]

First, the U.S. Mint nixed "Taxation Without Representation"
as the slogan for the D.C. quarter. Now, the Mint has
narrowed the choices for the design of the coin's reverse
to three figures from the city's history: Benjamin Banneker,
Duke Ellington and Frederick Douglass.

Each has his merits, of course, but this is a weak field.
The problem is not any lack of achievement on the part of
the candidates. No, it's the tenuousness of their connections
to the District, which are important but way too brief
(Banneker); an accident of birth that had little meaning
in his ultimate accomplishments (Ellington); and almost
irrelevant to his greatness (Douglass).

Just as almost every state in the union decided that no
one person captured the essence of its history and identity,
the District should have chosen an inanimate symbol to put
on the coin, which so many people fought so hard to get
added to the Mint's state quarters program.

The District, in contrast, settled on three men who, despite
their good works, say little about Washington except that
it is more than its federal, monumental core. The D.C.
government's desire to avoid obvious choices such as the
Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial is reasonable: This
is the chance to show that the District is not merely the
seat of government but a distinct community. The "Taxation
Without Representation" slogan would have made that gesture.
But the feds found that way too radical. So now the District
is trying to make a statement through the face of one man.

But here's the problem: Benjamin Banneker, an accomplished
mathematician and astronomer ... was born, lived most of his
life and died in the Baltimore area.

Duke Ellington ... was not merely a hugely popular performer,
but, far more important, a composer who turned the blues and
early jazz into America's classical music form. But while
Ellington grew up in Washington and got his early education
in the nightspots of the Black Broadway, as U Street was known
in the early 20th century, he left town at 23 and never lived
here again.

Which brings us to Frederick Douglass. Born on Maryland's
Eastern Shore, Douglass spent most of his career in Rochester,
N.Y., ... But his time in Washington came at the end of an
illustrious life.

To read the complete article, see:
 complete article

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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