On December 10, 1950, Diplomat Ralph J. Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation efforts between Israel and four Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Bunche became the first person of color in the world to ever receive a Nobel Prize.
Today, Ralph J. Bunche and his accomplishment often fall below the radar of our consciousness of influential African Americans. However, in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, Bunche was a hyper visible fixture whose dedication to decolonization, trusteeship, integration, and international peace, placed him at the forefront of leaders fighting toward equality. Bunche, who was characteristically humble, recognized that his visibility and privilege could be used to promote his racial progression platform. He believed that he was not free until his black audience was free too. The media, however, did not read Bunche’s visibility the same way. They saw Bunche and his success to be proof of the “Horatio Alger myth,” and believed that racism was dead and that any lack of progress in the black community, or the “negro problem,” was its own fault. Despite this contention, Ralph J. Bunche remains a very important figure in African-American, and American History. His selected speeches, writings, and papers, can be viewed here at the Schomburg center.
Photo Credit: David Shapinsky