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Culture & Religion

Duke Ellington’s America

"Ellington had many of the traits one associates more readily with the founders of religious orders or political movements than with lone artists absorbed in self-expression."

“On more than one occasion Duke Ellington described his childhood in Washington, D.C., as a sort of paradise, at least for him and those around him in the family circle. … Born Edward Kennedy Ellington in 1899, he was a child of African-American privilege as understood in the early twentieth century. His father James, whose schooling stopped at the eighth grade, was a sometime butler and caterer (he worked on some parties at the Warren G. Harding White House) who later drew blueprints for the Navy; an omnivorous reader fond of operatic music, he ‘always,’ according to Ellington, ‘acted as though he had money, whether he had it or not. He raised his family as though he were a millionaire.'”


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