Ralph Johnson Bunche

Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1950
Birthplace: Detroit, MI
Education: University of California at Los Angeles, Harvard University

Ralph Johnson Bunche was born in Detroit, MI. He was only 12 years old when his parents died, and his grandmother, who had been born into slavery, took Ralph and his two sisters to live in Los Angeles. Here Ralph did odd jobs to supplement the family's meager income.

Ralph attended UCLA on an athletic scholarship and graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian of his class. He then studied political science at Harvard University, from which he obtained a master's degree in 1928. He became active in the Civil Rights Movement and remained active all his life.

In 1936, Bunche wrote A World View of Race. During the 1940s, he served as consultant to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration on minority problems; and turned down Truman's offer of the position of Assistant Secretary of State because of segregated housing conditions in Washington, DC. In 1946, Bunche went to work at the United Nations. He was in charge of the Department of Trusteeship of the UN to handle problems of the world's peoples who had not yet attained self-government. In this capacity, he negotiated an armistice between Israel and the Arab States.

During the 1960s he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize freedom marches. Ralph Bunche's message was this: Segregation and democracy are incompatible. He died in 1971.

Related Resources

Web Resources
Nobel eMuseum
More biographical information about Ralph Johnson Bunche.

Black History Month  Return to the Encyclopedia
of Prominent African Americans

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