Meet Ralph C. Bunche, the First African American to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Ralph C. Bunche

Ralph C. Bunche helped end a war, and was recognized for his efforts when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. He was the first African American to receive the award. Bunche earned the prestigious honor by applying his exceptional mediation and negotiation skills to bringing together the adversaries in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict to work out and sign the 1949 Armistice Agreements.
Winner of the Presidential Medal of Honor and Civil Rights Activist

At the end of World War II, Bunche was directly involved in the start-up of the United Nations and played a prominent role in drafting the organization’s charter. He played an instrumental role in the creation and UN adoption of the historic Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

President John F. Kennedy awarded Bunche with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. The award represents one of the highest civilian awards in the US.

Bunche was active in the US Civil Rights Movement and was involved in two of its major events. He was part of the 1963 March on Washington and also participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.

First African American to Receive a Harvard PhD in Political Science

Always a brilliant student, Bunche graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a master’s degree. He then went on to obtain a PhD in political science at Harvard, becoming the first African American to do so at an American university. Between 1960 and 1965, Bunche served on Harvard University’s Board of Overseers.