Bunche, Ralph J.

Bunche, Ralph J. (Johnson)

(1904–71) diplomat, statesman; born in Detroit, Mich. He worked his way through college and traveled, wrote (A World View of Race, 1937), and taught at Howard University (1928–41). He served in the Office of Strategic Services (1941–44) and then the State Department (1944–47). At the start of his long career with the United Nations (1947–71), he was the acting mediator for the U.N. Palestine Commission (1948, 1949), and won the Nobel Peace prize for this work (1950). He subsequently became under secretary (1955–67) and under secretary general (1967–71) for the United Nations. Most noted for his expertise on colonial affairs and race relations, he directed UN peacekeeping efforts in the Suez (1956), the Congo (1964), and Cyprus (1964). Although he was not an overt activist or spokesman during his public career he was arguably the most prominent role model for his fellow African-Americans until the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.