February 14th in African American History – Monetta J. Sleet, Jr.

Monetta J. Sleet, Jr.February 14, 1926 Monetta J. Sleet, Jr., photographer and the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, was born in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Sleet served in the United States Army from 1944 to 1946. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Kentucky State University in 1947 and his Master of Arts degree in journalism from New York University in 1950.

Sleet went to work for Ebony Magazine in 1955 and over the next 41 years captured photos of many significant African American individuals and events, including a young Muhammad Ali, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holliday, and a grieving Betty Shabazz at the funeral of Malcolm X. His photograph of Coretta Scott King at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

Sleet died September 30, 1996 and his collection “Special Moments in African American History: The Photographs of Monetta Sleet, Jr. 1955 – 1996” was posthumously published in 1999.

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