- 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.
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The Armistice Agreements were signed in 1949. Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, becoming the first African American and person of color in the world to receive the award.
Though President Harry Truman subsequently wished for Bunche to become the U.S. assistant secretary of state, Bunche turned down the offer, citing the segregationist policies that still ruled the nation's capital and saying he did not want to subject his children to them.
Bunche's work was continually informed by his belief in the power of negotiation and diplomacy over battle. Toward the end of the 1950s he had become U.N. under-secretary-general for special political affairs and had overseen the dispatch of thousands of nonfighting, neutral troops in the 1956 Suez conflict. Bunche cited this effort as "the single most satisfying work" he'd ever done, as military forces were being used to maintain peace and not aid war.
Bunche continued his service into the 1960s, orchestrating the cessation of conflict in the Congo (Zaire), Cyprus and Bahrain. Domestically, Bunche also served as part of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for more than two decades and participated in other efforts in the civil rights movement.
After suffering from a number of ailments, including kidney and heart disease, Bunche died in New York City on December 9, 1971. Over his career he'd received more than four dozen honorary doctorates and many, many other accolades, including the U.S. Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy. A book on his life, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey by Brian Urquhart, was published in 1993.
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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.
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