Moneta J. Sleet, Jr. (1926 - 1996) - In 1969, Moneta J. Sleet, Jr. became the
first black American to win a Pulitzer Prize in photography. His major
contribution to photojournalism was his extensive documentation of the Civil
Rights movement. Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Moneta Sleet's interest in
photography began as a child. He pursued photography at Kentucky State College
and received his master's degree in Journalism from New York University in 1950.
He later joined Ebony Magazine as staff photographer. In 1956, Moneta Sleet met
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just as he was emerging as the leader of the civil
rights movement. He later covered Dr. King's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1964 and the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. When Dr. King was
assassinated in 1968, Moneta Sleet covered the funeral, resulting in the
Pulitzer winning photograph of Dr. King's grieving widow Coretta and youngest
daughter Bernice. His early career covered the period of African national
independence in the 1950's. Sleet photographed in Liberia, Libya, Sudan and he
photographed Kwame Nkrumah at the moment of Ghana's independence. This gained
Moneta Sleet an Overseas Press Club Citation in 1957. He often photographed
children who tagged alongside him as he worked. The father of three children
himself, these portraits were the most rewarding. Moneta Sleet received numerous
awards including the National Urban League in 1969, and the National Association
of Black Journalists in 1978. Over the years, his work has appeared in
exhibitions at museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Moneta Sleet's
work reveals a warmth of understanding and empathy with the subjects who passed
before his camera.
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