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Remembering Civil Rights Photographer Dan Budnik

The powerful images of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s helped to bring the movement into the homes of Americans. They saw Black people in the South defiantly holding their ground at lunch counters, riot police unleashing water cannons and dogs on peaceful civil rights protestors, and the courage and conviction of the movement’s leaders.

Dan Budnik was right there, with a camera, to document the fear, the courage, the anguish and the joy that could be seen on the faces of participants of the movement.

He stood behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he delivered the historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. His pictures appeared in Life, Look and the other magazines that used photography to chronicle a post-war world. From the Cuban Revolution in Havana to the funeral of John F. Kennedy, Budnik found a way to be in the middle of history with his camera. Later, he found his way to Arizona, where he spent the rest of his career documenting the Hopi and Navajo people.

Budnik died Aug. 14 at the age of 87 in Tucson. The Show spoke about his life and legacy with Dianne Nilsen, Budnik’s longtime friend and assistant toward the end of his life.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.