Born: 7 August 1904, Detroit, MI, USA
Died: 9 December 1971, New York, NY, USA
Residence at the time of the award: USA
Role: Acting Mediator in Palestine, 1948, Director, division of Trusteeship, U.N., Professor, Harvard University Cambridge, MA
Prize share: 1/1
Ralph 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.