Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, to James Edward Ellington and Daisy (Kennedy) Ellington in Washington, D.C. Both his parents were pianists. Daisy primarily played parlor songs, and James preferred operatic arias. They lived with Daisy’s parents at 2129 Ida Place (now Ward Place), NW, in D.C.’s West End neighborhood. Duke’s father was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, on April 15, 1879, and moved to D.C. in 1886 with his parents. Daisy Kennedy was born in Washington, D.C., on January 4, 1879, the daughter of two former American slaves. James Ellington made blueprints for the United States Navy.
When Edward Ellington was a child, his family showed racial pride and support in their home, as did many other families. African Americans in D.C. worked to protect their children from the era’s Jim Crow laws.
At age seven, Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales. Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him elegance. His childhood friends noticed that his casual, offhand manner and dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman, so they began calling him “Duke”. Ellington credited his friend Edgar McEntee for the nickname. “I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke.”
Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. “President Roosevelt (Teddy) would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play”, he recalled. Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. His first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games. From Wikipedia