Duke Ellington is the first African-American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin.  Ellington composed more than 3,000 songs and received 13 grammy awards.

Circulating coins are intended for daily use, and commemorative coins marks special occasions. Jackie Robinson, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and Crispus Attucks are African-Americans that  have appeared on commemorative coins.