LI photojournalist made history with Pulitzer win

In 1969, a photojournalist from Baldwin made history when he became the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

In 1969, a photojournalist from Baldwin made history when he became the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

In 1969, a photojournalist from Baldwin made history when he became the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. (2/15/16)

WOODBURY - In 1969, a photojournalist from Baldwin made history when he became the first black man to win the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

A year prior, thousands marched in the funeral procession for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The anguish of that day was put into sharp focus with the help of a poignant photo of Coretta Scott King comforting her 5-year-old daughter, Bernice, at King's funeral.

The picture, titled "A Portrait of Dignity," was captured by Ebony Magazine photographer Moneta Sleet Jr. and earned him journalism's top honor. His Pulitzer was the first awarded to a black man, and the first and only one given to anyone working for a black publication.

His daughter, Lisa Sleet, says that while her late father's photographs spoke of his compassion for those on the other side of the lens, they also expressed his own commitment to the civil rights movement.

As a boy, Moneta Sleet attended segregated schools in Kentucky and later served in a segregated Army unit during World War II. But segregation did not make him a bitter person, only strong, his daughter says.

"He said he's not going to let people drive him from who he is because he didn't have hate in his heart," Lisa Sleet says. "He had no hate in his heart, and you could tell that through his photographs."

From the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott to the march on Washington and battle for 1965's Voting Rights Act, Sleet snapped his shutter at every momentous step in America's slow march toward racial equality.

Sleet died of cancer in 1996 at age 70. In addition to Ebony Magazine, he worked for the New York Amsterdam News, Our World and Jet magazines.

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