Time Era

Historic time period: 1890–1930

Duke Ellington and Jazz

Born in America and enjoyed worldwide, jazz is a fun and exciting part of American history.

The National Museum of American History has many artifacts that tell the story of jazz, from Dizzy Gillespie's B–flat Trumpet to sheet music from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. To learn more about jazz, visit SmithsonianJazz.org.

This OurStory theme explores the story of one of America's signature art forms and greatest musicians. Start with reading Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, then explore other aspects of jazz history through the other related activities and books.

Read This Book

You can learn more about immigration history over different eras and from different countries by reading these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.

More Recommended Books

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Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra book cover

Featured Book

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Reprinted by arrangement with the illustrator, Brian Pinkney and Writers House LLC, acting as agent for the illustrator.


  • Call and Response

    Jazz Duet

    Play and Create

    Follow simple directions to make a musical instrument, then try out some "call and response" jazz rhythms

    Download the PDF »
  • In the Mood for Instruments

    In the Mood for Instruments

    Use Technology

    Try your hand at picking instruments to change the mood of a song.

    Download the PDF »
  • Jumpin Jazz Concert

    Jumpin' Jazz Concert

    Take a Trip

    Check out the cool jazz cats in your neighborhood with these tips for finding and enjoying jazz performances near you.

    Download the PDF »
  • reel of film

    Reel History

    Learn from Objects

    Take a peek at this film of Duke Ellington performing in 1930. Do you notice what's missing from this video?

    Download the PDF »

    Watch the newsreel video »

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Smithsonian's History Explorer