On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1926, in Owensboro, Kentucky, Moneta Sleet, Sr. and Ozetta Sleet (née Allensworth) welcomed a son, Moneta, Jr.  When he was a young child of nine or ten years, he was gifted by his parents a box camera.  This gift would spark a love for photography that would last throughout Sleet, Jr.’s life.

An inquisitive learner, Moneta Sleet, Jr. graduated from Western High School, where he was a member of the camera club and editor of the school’s newspaper.  While there, he became intrigued with photography, commenting in his book, Special Moments in African American History: The Photographs of Moneta Sleet Jr., 1955-1996, that “We would go into the makeshift darkroom in a little bathroom and develop pictures … And I became fascinated by it.”.  He then attended Kentucky State College (presently known as Kentucky State University), a historically Black university located in Frankfort, Kentucky.