Ralph Bunche is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1903 – December 9, 1971) was an American political scientist and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine.

He was the first person of color to be so honored in the history of the Prize. He was involved in formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy.

Bunche was born in Detroit, Michigan to an African American family; his father was a barber, his mother an amateur musician. His father had ancestors who were free before the American Revolution. They moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he was a child to improve his parents' health. His parents died soon after, and he was raised in Los Angeles by his grandmother.

Bunche was a brilliant student, a debater, and the valedictorian of his graduating class at Jefferson High School. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated summa cum laude in 1927, again as the valedictorian of his class. Using the money his community raised for his studies, and a scholarship from the University, he studied at Harvard University. There he earned a master's degree in political science in 1928 and a doctorate in 1934, when he was already teaching in Howard University's Department of Political Science. It was typical then for doctoral candidates to start teaching before completion of their dissertations. He was the first black American to gain a PhD in political science from an American university. From 1936 to 1938, Ralph Bunche conducted postdoctoral research in anthropology at London School of Economics (LSE), and later at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

The life story of Dr. Bunche is like that of many another American youth. Born and brought up in difficult circumstances, he had to go to work at an early age, becoming an errand boy at seven, and at twelve working long hours in a bakery, often until eleven or twelve o'clock at night. It was at this time that both of his parents died, and his old grandmother Nana took him and the other children to Los Angeles. Here young Ralph's life was divided between school and work, for he had to work in order to live. But again Ralph Bunche was no exception, for, as he recalls, seventy percent of the students at the University of California were obliged to do the same. Such a life can bee hard on the young, but it can also serve to develop the strength of character necessary for making one's way in life and meeting the problems one faces.