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Willie Garvin

Moneta Sleet: The great black photographer you've never heard of

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It's 50 years since the photographer, Moneta Sleet, became the first African American to win a Pulitzer prize for journalism. Has his work received the recognition it deserves?

On 4 April 1968, Moneta Sleet Jnr made his way to the front of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, as the funeral of Martin Luther King was about to begin. He found a position that allowed him to see Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader's widow, and the photograph he took of her won him a Pulitzer Prize.

It almost didn't happen. Initially, no black photojournalists were selected to cover the funeral, but when word of this reached Coretta Scott King she insisted that the black media be represented. If Moneta Sleet was not allowed into the church, she is reported to have said, there would be no photographers at all.

The shot that won the following year's Pulitzer prize for feature photography shows the civil rights leader's dignified, veiled widow clutching her youngest child's head to her lap, while five-year-old Bernice's eyes gaze mournfully across the church.


Edited by Willie Garvin
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Thanks Mick, so interesting. That’s a stunning shot too - so much you can read into/take out of that, context is all.

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