African Americans in Journalism
Crowds gathered outside of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral in Atlanta, Georgia, 5 April 1968; Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen stands at center, near the rear door of hearse; next to him is photojournalist Moneta Sleet, Jr. (Associated Press images)
Writing is not the only area of journalism in which African Americans have excelled. In fact, the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a black journalist came in the "Feature Photography" category, in 1969, for an image captured by Moneta Sleet, Jr. (1926–1996) of Bernice King sitting in the lap of her mother, Coretta Scott King, at the funeral of her father, Martin Luther King, Jr. (where Sleet is pictured at center above, next to Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr.). Sleet's employer, Ebony Magazine, was founded as an African American monthly by Chicago publisher John H. Johnson in 1945, but Sleet signed on a decade later, having already earned a Master's Degree in journalism at New York University, taught photography at Maryland State College, covered sports for the Amsterdam News, and published photo essays in John P. Davis's Our World magazine. The Pulitzer was the culmination of more than a decade following black history as it unfolded in the viewfinder of Sleet's camera: in Montgomery, Selma, on the National Mall, but also in Africa, where he documented the end of the colonial era and the celebratory rise of newly independent nations. In 1992, Sleet told AASC contributor Cherise Smith, "The type of photography I do is one of showing from my point of view. . . The area and the type of work I do is one of advocacy, I think, particularly during the civil rights movement because I was a participant just like everybody else. I just happened to be there with my camera. . . I felt and firmly believe that my mission was to photograph and to show the side of it that was the right side."