Ralph Bunche: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Ralph Bunche

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ralph Bunche

Ralph Bunche at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Born August 7, 1903(1903-08-07)
Detroit, Michigan
Died December 9, 1971 (aged 68)
New York City
Occupation Political scientist and diplomat
Known for Mediation in Palestine, Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1903[1] – December 9, 1971) was an American political scientist and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. He was the first person of color to be so honored in the history of the Prize.[2] He was involved in formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy.[3]


Early life and education

Bunche was born in Detroit, Michigan to an African American family; his father was a barber, his mother an amateur musician. His father had ancestors who were free before the American Revolution. They moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he was a child to improve his parents' health. His parents died soon after, and he was raised in Los Angeles by his grandmother.

Bunche was a brilliant student, a debater, and the valedictorian of his graduating class at Jefferson High School. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated summa cum laude in 1927, again as the valedictorian of his class. Using the money his community raised for his studies, and a scholarship from the University, he studied at Harvard University. There he earned a master's degree in political science in 1928 and a doctorate in 1934, when he was already teaching in Howard University's Department of Political Science. It was typical then for doctoral candidates to start teaching before completion of their dissertations. He was the first black American to gain a PhD in political science from an American university. From 1936 to 1938, Ralph Bunche conducted postdoctoral research in anthropology at London School of Economics (LSE), and later at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.


Bunche chaired the Department of Political Science at Howard University from 1928 until 1950, where he taught generations of students. He lived in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and was a member of the American Federation of Teachers affiliate at Harvard.

"Throughout his career, Bunche has maintained strong ties with education. He chaired the Department of Political Science at Howard University from 1928 until 1950; taught at Harvard University from 1950 to 1952; served as a member of the New York City Board of Education (1958-1964), as a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University (1960-1965), as a member of the Board of the Institute of International Education, and as a trustee of Oberlin College, Lincoln University, and New Lincoln School."[4]

In 1936 Bunche authored a pamphlet entitled A World View of Race. In it Bunche wrote: "And so class will some day supplant race in world affairs. Race war will then be merely a side-show to the gigantic class war which will be waged in the big tent we call the world." In 1936-40 Bunche served as contributing editor of the journal Science and Society: A Marxian Quarterly.[5]

World War II years

Bunche spent time during World War II in the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA) as senior social analyst on Colonial Affairs before joining the State Department. In 1943 Bunche went to the State Department, where he was appointed Associate Chief of the division of Dependent Area Affairs under Alger Hiss. With Hiss, Bunche became one of the leaders of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR).

He participated in the preliminary planning for the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference of 1945.

Work with the United Nations

At the close of the Second World War, Bunche was active in preliminary planning for the United Nations (Dumbarton Oaks Conversations held in Washington D.C. in 1944). He was also an adviser to the U.S. delegation for the "Charter Conference" of the United Nations held in 1945. Additionally, he was closely involved in drafting the charter of the United Nations. Ralph Bunche along with Eleanor Roosevelt were considered instrumental in the creation and adoption of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the United Nations document "Ralph Bunche: Visionary for Peace", during his 25 years of service to the United Nations, he

...championed the principle of equal rights for everyone, regardless of race or creed. He believed in "the essential goodness of all people, and that no problem in human relations is insoluble." Through the UN Trusteeship Council, Bunche readied the international stage for an unprecedented period of transformation, dismantling the old colonial systems in Africa and Asia, and guiding scores of emerging nations through the transition to independence in the post-war era.


Arab-Israeli conflict and Nobel Peace Prize

Beginning in 1947, Bunche was involved with the Arab-Israeli conflict. He served as assistant to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, and thereafter as the principal secretary of the U.N. Palestine Commission. In 1948 he traveled to the Middle East as the chief aide to Sweden's Count Folke Bernadotte, who had been appointed by the U.N. to mediate the conflict. These men chose the island of Rhodes for their base and working headquarters. In September, Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem by members of the underground Jewish group Lehi.

Following the assassination, Dr. Bunche became the U.N.'s chief mediator and chose to conduct all future negotiations on Rhodes. The representative for Israel was Moshe Dayan who reported in memoirs that much of his delicate negotiation with Ralph Bunche was conducted over a billiard table while shooting pool with him. Optimistically, Dr. Bunche commissioned a local potter to create unique memorial plates bearing the name of each negotiator. When the agreement was signed, Dr. Bunche awarded these gifts. After unwrapping his, Moshe Dayan asked Ralph Bunche what might have happened if no agreement had been reached. "I'd have broken the plates over your damn heads", Bunche answered. For achieving the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Dr. Bunche received the Peace Prize [6], in 1950.[7] He continued to work for the United Nations, mediating in other strife-torn regions, including the Congo, Yemen, Kashmir, and Cyprus. He rose to the position of undersecretary-general in 1968

Prominent African American

The grave of Ralph Bunche

As a prominent African American, Bunche was an active and vocal supporter of the civil rights movement, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, and also in the famous Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march that led to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.[8]

Bunche was a resident of the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York.[9]

Bunche died in 1971 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. He was 68.


A bust of Ralph Bunche, Bunche Hall, UCLA.

In 1951 Bunche was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award by the National Boy Scouts of America for his work in scouting and positive impact for the world.

On January 12, 1982, The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a postage stamp in memory of Dr. Bunche. A bust of Ralph Bunche, at the entrance to Bunche Hall, overlooks the Sculpture Garden at UCLA.

The Ralph J. Bunche Library of the U.S. Department of State is the oldest Federal government library. It was founded by the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson in 1789. It was dedicated to and renamed the Ralph J. Bunche Library on May 5, 1997. It is located in the Harry S. Truman Building, the main State Department headquarters.

In 1996, Howard University named its international affairs center, a physical facility and associated administrative programs, the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center. The Center is the site of lectures and internationally-oriented programming as well as serving as "Howard's point of contact for . . . foreign embassies, governments, univer­sities and corporations, as well as U.S. government agencies."[10]

Ralph Bunche Park is in New York City, across First Avenue from the United Nations headquarters. The neighborhood of Bunche Park in the city of Miami Gardens Florida, was named in honor of Mr. Bunche. Ralph J. Bunche also had elementary schools named after him in Ecorse, Michigan; Canton, Georgia; Miami, Florida; and New York City and a high school named after him in King George County, Virginia. One of the historic black beaches in Florida, from the age of segregation, is Bunche Beach, near Ft. Myers.

The Dr. Ralph J. Bunche Peace and Heritage Center, his boyhood home with his grandmother in the Central Avenue Neighborhood of Los Angeles, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmarks. The owner of the property, Dunbar Economic Development Corporation of Los Angeles, operates the home as a rehabilitated interpretive Museum and Community Center to promote peaceful interaction of all groups within South Central Los Angeles. The period of significance of the historic house museum is from the 1920s. The property was fully restored between 2002 and 2004, winning a Los Angeles Conservancy Award for Historic Preservation in 2006. Design Aid Architects was the Historic Preservation Consultant for the property rehabilitation.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Ralph Bunche on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[11]

In 2004, Ralph Bunche was posthumously honored with the William J. Donovan Award from The OSS Society.


  • "May there be, in our time, at long last, a world at peace in which we, the people, may for once begin to make full use of the great good that is in us."[3]
  • "There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders."[12]
  • "I...believe in the essential goodness of my fellow man, which leads me to believe that no problem of human relations is ever insoluble."[7]

Selected bibliography by Bunche

  • Bunche, Ralph, A World View of Race. (Bronze Booklet Series. Washington, D.C.: Associates in Negro Folk Education, 1936) [Reprint, Port Washington, NY, Kennikat Press, 1968; excerpt in Ralph Bunche: Selected Speeches and Writings, edited by Charles P. Henry]
  • Bunche, Ralph. The Political Status of the Negro in the Age of FDR, edited with an Introduction by Dewey W. Grantham. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973) [A version of a Ralph Bunche 1941 research memorandum prepared for the Carnegie-Myrdal Study, "The Negro in America"]
  • Bunche, Ralph. A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership, edited with an Introduction by Jonathan Scott Holloway (NY, New York University Press, 2005) [A version of "The Negro in America"]
  • Edgar, Robert R., ed. An African American in South Africa: The Travel Notes of Ralph J. Bunche, 28 September 1937 - 1 January 1938. (Athens, Ohio University Press, 1992)
  • Henry, Charles P., ed. Ralph J. Bunche: Selected Speeches and Writings. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995)

See also


  1. ^ Urquhart, p. 25
  2. ^ Ralph Bunche, PBS.
  3. ^ a b Ralph Bunche, Medal of Freedom
  4. ^ Bunche Biography, Nobel Peace Prize website.
  5. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation Report: Institute of Pacific Relations, Internal Security - C, November 4, 1944, p. 4, FBI IPR file, Section 1, PDF p. 43
  6. ^ Ralph Bunche: UN Mediator in the Middle East, 1948-1949
  7. ^ a b Benjamin Rivlin, "Vita: Ralph Johnson Bunche: Brief life of a champion of human dignity: 1903-1971", Harvard Magazine, Nov. 2003.
  8. ^ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Ralph J. Bunche: Nobel Peace Prize Winners Whose Paths Converge
  9. ^ Rimer, Sara. "From Queens Streets, City Hall Seems Very Distant", The New York Times, October 19, 1989. Accessed November 13, 2007.
  10. ^ http://www.howard.edu/rjb/ABOUT.HTM
  11. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  12. ^ Forbes, Dec. 7, 2007


  • Henry, Charles P. Ralph Bunche: Model Negro or American Other? (NY, New York University Press, 1999)
  • Meyer, Edith Patterson In Search of Peace: The Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1901 - 1975 (Nashville, Abdington, 1978)
  • Rivlin, Benjamin, ed. Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times (New York: Holmes & Meyer, 1990)
  • Urquhart, Brian. Ralph Bunche: An American Life (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993) [Paperback edition titled Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey, 1998]
  • Nobel Committee information on Bunche
  • Ralph Bunche Biography

External links

Preceded by
Position Created
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
for Special Political Affairs

1961 – 1971
Succeeded by
Brian Urquhart


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ralph Bunche, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1951

Ralph Johnson Bunche (1904-08-071971-12-09) was an American political scientist and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in Palestine in the late 1940s, which led to an armistice agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians in the region. He was the first African-American to be so honored in the history of the Prize.


  • There are no warlike people, just warlike leaders.
  • And so class will some day supplant race in world affairs. Race war will then be merely a side-show to the gigantic class war which will be waged in the big tent we call the world.
  • We can never have too much preparation and training. We must be a strong competitor. We must adhere staunchly to the basic principle that anything less than full equality is not enough. If we compromise on that principle our soul is dead.
  • If you want to get an idea across, wrap it up in a person.
  • Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address