Ralph J. Bunche
Ralph J Bunche Academy was named for the Nobel Laureate, scholar, and civil rights activist who served as a model of peace maker, life-long learner, and humanitarian for our students. Ralph Bunche's success in providing a permanent cease-fire and a peaceful settlement between the Arab and Jewish factions in the Near East in 1949, while simultaneously renewing the world's confidence in the United Nations, were the major vehicles that launched him into the international spotlight and contributed to his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. These were not by any means his only accomplishments.
Bunche was best known for his work for the State Department, where he was then associate chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs. Bunche had first been approached by the State Department in 1944, after high-ranking officers filed enthusiastic reports on his intelligence work at the outbreak of World War II. Despite his reputation as the foremost authority on colored peoples of the world, Bunche's appointment was opposed because of his racial background. Secretary of State Cordell Hull personally intervened to assure that Bunche was hired, marking the first time in history that an African American had been given a desk-level position in the State Department. Reyneau's portrait suggests Bunche's work in the State Department through the inclusion of a map of Africa and Asia in the background.
Among the many reasons that Ralph J Bunche is memorialized through our academy is his academic leadership. With a scholarship granted by Harvard University and a fund of a thousand dollars raised by the black community of Los Angeles, Bunche began his graduate studies in political science. He completed his master's degree in 1928 and for the next six years alternated between teaching at Howard University and working toward a doctorate at Harvard. The Rosenwald Fellowship, which he held in 1932-1933, enabled him to conduct research in Africa for a dissertation comparing French rule in Togoland and Dahomey. He completed his dissertation in 1934 with such distinction that he was awarded the Toppan Prize for outstanding research in social studies. From 1936 to 1938, on a Social Science Research Council fellowship, he did postdoctoral research in anthropology at Northwestern University, the London School of Economics, and Capetown University in South Africa.
Ralph Bunche's enduring fame arises from his service to the U. S. government and to the United Nations. An adviser to the Department of State and to the military on Africa and colonial areas of strategic military importance during World War II, Bunche moved from his first position as an analyst in the Office of Strategic Services to the desk of acting chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs in the State Department. From June of 1947 to August of 1949, Bunche worked on the most important assignment of his career - the confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. He was first appointed as assistant to the UN Special Committee on Palestine, then as principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission, which was charged with carrying out the partition approved by the UN General Assembly. In early 1948 when this plan was dropped and fighting between Arabs and Israelis became especially severe, the UN appointed Count Folke Bernadotte as mediator and Ralph Bunche as his chief aide. Four months later, on September 17, 1948, Count Bernadotte was assassinated, and Bunche was named acting UN mediator on Palestine. After eleven months of virtually ceaseless negotiating, Bunche obtained signatures on armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States. Bunche returned home to a hero's welcome, and was given over thirty honorary degrees in the next three years, and the Nobel Peace Prize for 1950.
At Ralph J Bunche Academy, we proudly honor this man and his belief in hard work, perseverance, and the dignity and value of all human beings.