Moneta J. Sleet, Jr. (1926-1996)

Historical Marker #2036 in Owensboro notes the accomplishments of Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Moneta J. Sleet, Jr.

Sleet was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1926. His love of photography began at an early age when his parents gave him a box camera. He continued his fascination with taking pictures while obtaining a business degree at Kentucky State University. There, he came under the tutelage of Dr. John Williams, the dean, and an avid photographer. Sleet continued his education at New York University where he earned a master's degree in journalism in 1950.

Sleet began his journalism career as sportswriter for the "Amsterdam News" in New York City. He then went to work of the African American magazine, "Our World." Johnson Publishing Company, the parent company of "Ebony" and "Jet" magazines, offered Sleet a job in 1955 when "Our World" went out of business. Sleet's career with Johnson lasted until his death in 1996.

One of Sleet's early assignments was to cover the young up-and-coming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The two formed a lasting friendship from that first meeting. Sleet went on to cover King's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. In 1969, Sleet earned international acclaim for his 1968 photograph of Coretta Scott King at Dr. King's funeral. The image won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Sleet continued to work for "Ebony" and "Jet" magazines, and his work was exhibited in museums across the United States. He received awards from the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Journalists. Sleet passed away in 1996 at age 70.

The marker reads:

MONETA J. SLEET, JR. (1926-1996)

Born in Owensboro, Sleet was a graduate of Ky. State College and New York Univ. Beginning in 1955, he worked as photojournalist for Jet and Ebony magazines for 41 yrs. During the 1950s-60s, his photos documented the African struggle for independence and the American civil rights movement. He inspired a generation of photographers. Presented by City of Owensboro and Messenger-Inquirer.


As friend of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Sleet covered the Selma to Montgomery (Ala.) March and later King's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. In 1969, he won Pulitzer Prize for photo of Coretta Scott King at Dr. King's funeral (first African American photographer to receive this award). His work has been part of numerous museum exhibitions.

This marker was dedicated on February 24, 2000.