Dr. Ralph J. Bunche was the first African American to be awarded the Peace Prize. He received it for having arranged a cease-fire between Israelis and Arabs during the war which followed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Ralph Bunche was a social science graduate and before World War II studied colonial policy in West Africa. He joined the staff of the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal, who was studying racial segregation in the USA. In World War II, Bunche became the first Afro-American to hold a top job in the State Department.
In 1946, Ralph Bunche went into UN service, and in the following year Secretary-General Trygve Lie sent him to the Middle East to help to devise a plan for dividing Palestine between Arabs and Jews. The Arabs rejected the UN resolution concerning a Jewish state, and went to war on Israel. When the chief UN negotiator Folke Bernadotte was murdered by Jewish extremists in the autumn of 1948, Ralph Bunche had to replace him. In the following year he succeeded in bringing about a cease-fire, after tough negotiations.
Bunche served as the founding chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, teaching generations of students to think strategically and intentionally about the world in which they lived and the possibilities and implications for the future. He was invited to join the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, at the start of World War II in Europe. From there, his public service career took him to the State Department and eventually to the United Nations where he championed human and civil rights for everyone. He believed in “the essential goodness of all people, and that no problem in human relations is insoluble.” In 1947, Bunche, as a UN emissary, became involved in negotiating the Arab-Israeli conflict. For achieving the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Dr. Bunche was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize. Read more about The Ralph Bunche Fund.