Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson), 1904-1971

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1904-08-07
Death 1971-12-09
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Ralph Bunche was Secretary of United Nations.

From the description of Letter (typewritten) to Abraham Stavsky, 1967, February 28. (Regent University). WorldCat record id: 49291995

Ralph Johnson Bunche b 1904; educated at University of California, Los Angeles (AB), Harvard University (AM, PhD); Chairman, Dept of Political Science, Howard University, Washington DC, 1928-1950; Director, Trusteeship Department, Unted Nations, 1946-1954; acting UN Mediator on Palestine, 1948-1949; awarded Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the Middle East, 1950; Professor of Government, Harvard, 1950-1952; UN Under Secretary for Special Political Affairs, 1954-1967; UN Special Representative in the Congo, 1960; UN Under Secretary-General, 1968-1971.

From the guide to the BUNCHE, Ralph Johnson (1904-1971), 1937, (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

African American scholar and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.

From the description of Ralph Bunche papers : additions, 1937-1971. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 621039440

Ralph Bunche was the first Black to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.

From the description of TLS, 1957 February 11 : United Nations, New York, to Miss Irene Rodak, Niagara Falls. (Copley Press, J S Copley Library). WorldCat record id: 17248554

Ralph J. Bunche was a scholar, government official, diplomat, undersecretary-general of the United Nations, and recipient of the Noble Peace Prize in 1950 for his mediation of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and the Arab states in 1949.

From the description of Ralph Bunche letters, 1959-1963. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 456424142

Bunche was born in Detroit, MI, on Aug. 7, 1904; AB, UCLA, 1927; AM, 1928, and Ph. D, 1934, Harvard Univ.; professor at Howard Univ. from 1929-1950, and at Harvard, 1950-1952; in 1948 joined Permanent Secretariat of UN; undersecretary for special political affairs, UN, 1958-67; became undersecretary general in 1968; awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1950; died in NY, on Dec. 9, 1971.

From the description of Papers, 1927-1971. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 38095597

Scholar, diplomat and statesman.

Born in 1904 of a working class family in Detroit, Michigan, Bunche graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and the Harvard Graduate School in 1928. He married Ruth Harris in 1930. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1906, she graduated from Alabama State Normal and the Minor Normal School in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a teacher in the city's public schools. The Bunche couple had three children: Joan, Jane and Ralph, Jr.

In 1928, Bunche became a lecturer and later the chairman of the Department of Political Science at Howard University. His monograph "A World view of Peace" was published in 1936. In 1938, he joined the staff of the Carnegie Corporation in conducting and organizing a comprehensive survey of the social, political and economic status of blacks in the United States. Entitled "The Negro in America," the survey was based on the field work and extensive research memoranda prepared by a staff of scholars and collaborators. Bunche contributed four studies to the project: "A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership," "Conceptions and Ideologies of the Negro Problem," "The Political Status of the Negro" and "The Programs, Ideologies, Tactics and Achievements of Negro Betterment and Interracial Organizations."

During the Second World War, Bunche worked at the Department of State as a Senior Research Analyst and as an area specialist for Africa and dependent territories. A member of the U.S. delegation at the founding of the United Nations, he was appointed in 1946 as Director of the Division of Trusteeship. He joined the Permanent Secretariat of the United Nations in 1948 with the title of Principal Director of the Trusteeship Council. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his mediation of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and the Arab States the preceding year. He served for the next twenty years as Special Assistant for Political Affairs to the Secretary General. Ralph Bunche retired from the United Nations in 1971, the year of his death.

From the description of Ralph Bunche papers, 1922-1988. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122485473

Biography

Bunche, Ralph Johnson (7 Aug. 1904-9 Dec. 1971), scholar and diplomat, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an "e" to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in political science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles or UCLA). He graduated summa cum laude and served as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1928, then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his Ph.D. at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris; they had three children. Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching his dissertation and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in February 1934.

Concerned with the problems facing African Americans in the United States, Bunche published numerous articles on racial issues and the monograph A World View of Race (1936). He and his colleague John P. Davis organized a 1935 conference called "The Status of the Negro under the New Deal," at which Bunche criticized the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. He was also involved in the creation of the National Negro Congress, an attempt to bring white Americans and African Americans of different social and economic backgrounds together to discuss race matters. In the final years of the decade Bunche contributed research and reports to a Carnegie study on American race relations headed by sociologist Gunnar Myrdal. The resulting work, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, published in 1944, was a landmark study of racial conflicts in the United States.

The rise of totalitarianism in Europe and the outbreak of war in 1939 worried Bunche, who feared that a Nazi victory in Europe would spur the growth of fascism in the United States, with disastrous consequences for African Americans. In 1941 he entered public service, accepting a position as a senior analyst in the Office of the Coordinator of Information (later the Office of Strategic Services). As head of the Africa Section, Bunche urged his superiors to approach the problem of postwar decolonization of European holdings in Africa. His proposal was rejected, and he transferred to the Department of State in 1944.

Bunche served as an adviser to the American delegations at the conferences in Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco concerning the creation of the United Nations (UN). Recognized for his contributions on colonial and trusteeship policies, he was appointed a member of the U.S. delegation to the 1945 meeting of the Preparatory Commission of the UN and the first session of the UN General Assembly in 1946. In April 1946 Bunche took a temporary position on the United Nations Secretariat as director of the trusteeship position. The temporary position became permanent, and he served on the UN Secretariat for the remainder of his life.

In 1947 Bunche was appointed to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. He drafted both the majority report, which recommended a partition of the territory between Palestinians and Jews, and the minority report, which called for the creation of a federal state. The UN General Assembly accepted the partition plan, and Bunche was named the principal secretary for a commission designed to oversee its implementation. With the outbreak of war in 1948, Bunche was appointed as an assistant to the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte. Following Bernadotte's assassination in September of that year, Bunche became the acting mediator. He successfully negotiated armistice agreements between Israel and several Arab states and was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Bunche's commitment to the United Nations did not prevent him from speaking out against racial discrimination in the United States. In 1949 he turned down a position as assistant secretary of state, noting that he did not want to experience the blatant discrimination against African Americans that existed in the nation's capital.

Bunche was appointed an undersecretary-general for special political affairs in 1954. With the outbreak of the Suez crisis in 1956, he was again called upon to use his diplomatic skills in a Middle Eastern conflict, and he organized the UN Emergency Force that was responsible for peacekeeping activities in the region. His Middle East experience prepared him for the difficulties he faced in 1960, when he organized and commanded both the military and civilian branches of the UN peacekeeping force sent to the Congo. He again directed a peacekeeping force when conflicts erupted on the island of Cyprus in 1964.

Bunche continued to press for the civil rights of African Americans. Though he still hoped for a society free from racial division, the civil rights conflicts of the late 1960s troubled him greatly. He participated in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery with Martin Luther King, Jr. However, Bunche found himself under attack from leaders, such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, who argued that he had served white society and abandoned his African heritage. In turn, Bunche denounced the separatist agenda of the Black Power movement. Health problems, many related to his diabetes, slowed him in the final years of his life. He died in New York City.

During his lifetime Bunche garnered international recognition and numerous rewards for his United Nations service, including the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 1963. Though his position earned him the derision of many civil rights leaders in the 1960s, he was dedicated to the cause of African-American civil rights throughout his career. By using his diplomatic skills in the service of the United Nations, he promoted the cause of peace in a world that sorely needed men of dedication and ability in this area.

Thomas Clarkin. "Bunche, Ralph Johnson"; http://www.anb.org/articles/07/07-00424.html ; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.

From the guide to the Ralph J. Bunche papers, 1927-1971, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

Ralph Johnson Bunche began his career as an educator and a political scientist, and later joined the United Nations, serving for the last twenty years of his life as a special assistant to the General Secretary of that world body.

Born in 1904 of a working class family in Detroit, Michigan, Bunche went to live with his maternal grandmother in Los Angeles, California, after the death of his mother in 1917. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 1921, the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and the Harvard Graduate School in 1928. In 1929 he was awarded the Ozias Goodwin Memorial Fellowship at Harvard. His doctoral dissertation “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey” received the Toppan Prize in 1934. Bunche conducted post-doctoral work in anthropology and colonial policy at Northwestern University in 1936, the London School of Economics in 1937 and the University of Capetown, South Africa, in 1938. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Bunche met Ruth Harris in Washington, D.C. at the start of his career at Howard University in 1928. They married in 1930. Born in Montgomery, Ala. in 1906 and the youngest of ten children, she graduated from Alabama State Normal and the Minor Normal School in Washington, D.C. where she worked as a teacher in the city's public school. Her father, Charles Harris, was the chief mailing clerk and a prominent civic leader in Montgomery. The Bunche couple had three children: Joan, Jane and Ralph, Jr.

Ralph Bunche joined the staff of Howard University in 1928, first as a lecturer and later as the chairman of the Department of Political Science. While at Howard, he organized a series of conferences on the problems of African-American communities in the United States. He joined various committees protesting discrimination by department stores and theaters, and organized his students to join picket lines in Washington, D.C. In 1932, Bunche traveled to West and North Africa on a Rosenwald Fellowship to survey French colonial administration. His pamphlet “A World View of Peace” was published in 1936. The same year, he received a two year Social Science Research Council Fellowship for field and research work in Africa and Europe.

Bunche took a leave of absence from Howard University in 1938 and joined the staff of the Carnegie Corporation in conducting and organizing a comprehensive survey of the social, political and economic status of blacks in the United States. Entitled “The Negro in America” and also known as the “Carnegie-Myrdal Study,” the survey was directed by the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, and was based on the field work and the extensive research memoranda prepared by a staff of scholars and collaborators. In addition to coordinating various administrative aspects of the project, Bunche conducted several field trips in the South in 1939 and was the author of four sizable research memoranda: “A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership,” “Conceptions and Ideologies of the Negro Problem,” “The Political Status of the Negro” and “The Programs, Ideologies, Tactics and Achievements of Negro Betterment and Interracial Organizations.” These works are quoted extensively in Myrdal's American Dilemma (Harper & Brothers, 1944).

After the entrance of the United States in the Second World War, Bunche accepted a temporary assignment at the State Department, working first as a Senior Research Analyst in the Office of Strategic Services and, in 1944, as an area specialist for Africa and dependent territories. He became a member of the U.S. delegation at the founding of the United Nations in 1945, serving consecutively as Acting Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs, Commissioner of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission and, in 1946, as Director of the Division of Trusteeship.

Bunche joined the Permanent Secretariat of the United Nations in 1948 with the title of Principal Director of the Trusteeship Council. Known also as Committee Four of the General Assembly, the Council supervised the administration of colonial territories formerly belonging to Germany. These territories included French and British Togoland, the French and British Cameroons, the Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi, New Guinea and Western Samoa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and the Arab states in 1948, and was also credited for his role in organizing the U.N. Green Berets. He also played a major role in the day to day work of the organization, and enjoyed a wide reputation for his integrity, his commitment to world peace and his gift as a negotiator and administrator. Gravely ill toward the end of his life, Ralph Bunche retired from the United Nations in 1971, the year of his death.

Ralph Bunche enjoyed wide prominence and respect both as a scholar and statesman. A political moderate, he believed in petitioning government for justice but did not hesitate to march in protest when all else failed. During the 1960s, however, he came under attack for his apparent lack of support and identification with the politics of protest and direct action advocated by the civil rights movement of that era. He was also criticized for his role in the Congo after the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force in preventing the overthrow and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Bunche is honored today, nonetheless, as an outstanding world leader and as a role model in the African American community.

From the guide to the Ralph Bunche papers, 1922-1988, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Voting--United States
  • Mandates--Palestine
  • Arab--Israeli conflict
  • African Americans--Study and teaching
  • African American college teachers
  • Spingarn Medal
  • Civil and political rights
  • African Americans--Suffrage
  • World War, 1939-1945--Secret service
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  • Mandates--Cameroon
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  • African American universities and colleges
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  • Statesmen--United States--Archival resources

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