- NAME: Ralph Bunche
- OCCUPATION: Diplomat
- BIRTH DATE: August 07, 1904
- DEATH DATE: December 09, 1971
- Did You Know?: Ralph Bunche was the first African-American student to receive a political science Ph.D.
- Did You Know?: Ralph Bunche was the first African-American desk officer for the U.S. State Department.
- EDUCATION: University of California, Los Angeles, Harvard University, Northwestern University, London School of Economics
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Detroit, Michigan
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
Best Known For
Ralph Bunche was a Nobel Peace Prize–winning academic and U.N. diplomat known for his peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born on August 7, 1903 or '04 in Detroit, Ralph Bunche excelled at academics to become a professor and federal officer specializing in international work. He joined the United Nations in 1947 and oversaw a heralded armistice in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize and later oversaw peacekeeping efforts in the Congo, Cyprus and Bahrain. He died on December 9, 1971.
"International machinery will mean something to the common man throughout the world only when it is translated into terms that he can understand: peace, bread, housing, clothing, education, good health, and above all, the right to walk with dignity on the world's great boulevards."
"I have a number of very strong biases. I have a deep-seated bias against hate and intolerance. I have a bias against racial and religious bigotry."
"I have a bias against war, a bias for peace. I have a bias which leads me to believe in the essential goodness of my fellow man, which leads me to believe that no problem of human relations is ever insoluble. And I have a strong bias in favor of the United Nations and its ability to maintain a peaceful world."
"I have a deep-set conviction that man must have an inherent notion of right and wrong, a fundamental moral structure and a simple sense of individual obligation, whether he be in a natural state or in society."
"I seek total integration, which to me means the Negro taking his place in the very mainstream of American life…. My ancestors have contributed very much to the development of this country and therefore I have a vested interest in it that I intend to realize and protect."
"The Peace Prize attracted all the attention, but I've had more satisfaction in the work I've done since. I have been in charge of the U.N. peace-keeping operations in various parts of the world..."
"[The] United Nations has had the courage that the League of Nations lacked—to step in and tackle the buzz saw."
Ralph Johnson Bunche was born on August 7, 1904 (some sources say 1903), in Detroit, Michigan. After his family relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bunche's mother died during his early adolescence; reports vary on whether his father died soon after or had left the family. As a result, Bunche and his younger sister relocated to Los Angeles and were taken in by his maternal grandmother, Lucy Taylor Johnson, who became a major advocate for the education of her grandson.
Bunche proved to be a brilliant student, graduating as valedictorian from Jefferson High School and excelling in athletics. He attended the University of California on scholarship, playing varsity sports and working as a janitor to pay for additional expenses. He also took to working as part of a ship's crew during summers, after being made to toil upon being caught as a stowaway on his way to a college military program.
Bunche graduated in 1927 as valedictorian of his class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He entered Harvard University and earned his M.A. in 1928 and his Ph.D. in governmental/international relations in 1934, thus becoming the first African American to earn a political science doctorate. In 1928 he also joined the faculty of Howard University, and subsequently helped to launch their political science department. He later did postgraduate anthropological work at institutions like the London School of Economics and the University of Cape Town.
Bunche married Ruth Ethel Harris in 1930; the couple went on to have three children.
Bunche became co-director of Swarthmore College's Institute of Race Relations by the mid-1930s and wrote the 1936 book A World View of Race. By the end of the decade, he also assisted journalist/sociologist Gunnar Myrdal in his research for the book An American Dilemma (1944), which looked unflinchingly at racial discrimination in the United States.
During World War II, Bunche worked as part of the National Defense Program and later joined the U.S. State Department, becoming a key player in the formation of the United Nations. He eventually left the State Department to join the global organization's secretariat.
One of Bunche's major achievements was his efforts from 1947 to 1949 to bring peace to the region of Palestine, the site of major conflict between Arab and Israeli forces. After his supervisor, mediator Count Folke Bernadotte, was killed in a terrorist attack, Bunche was called upon to helm the talks on the island of Rhodes. The long negotiation process was defined by the diplomat's willingness to meet with both sides and be meticulous, calm and patient about getting parties to sit with each other and get used to signing off on smaller matters.
profile name: Ralph Bunche profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
When Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel died in 1896, he left his fortune to create an annual series of prizes for the individuals who confer "the greatest benefit on mankind." The most prestigious of the awards is the Nobel Peace Prize. Historians believe Alfred Nobel wanted to award people who work for peace to compensate for his own role in inventing dynamite. Since its establishment, the prize has gone to many courageous individuals who have fought for peace and human rights around the world.
Nobel Peace Prize Winners 44 people in this group
Explore our collection of pioneering African Americans in government and politics, including Alexander Lucius Twilight, the first African American to win election to public office; Hiram R. Revels, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate; Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the Senate; and Amelia Boynton, who became both the first African-American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama in 1964. View full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
African-American Firsts: Government & Politics 21 people in this group
Famous Leos 554 people in this group