Ralph J. Bunche (August 7, 1904-1971) was born in Detroit, Michigan. When he was ten years old, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Two years later, they moved to Los Angeles, California.
He graduated in 1927, summa cum laude, valedictorian of his class, with a major in international relations at the University of California in Los Angeles. He began his graduate studies at Harvard University in political science, completing his master's degree in 1928.
He was a member of the Black Cabinet consulting on minority problems during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He declined President Truman's offer of the position as Assistant Secretary of State because of the segregated housing conditions in Washington, D. C.
He was actively involved in the modern American Civil Rights Movement. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also supported action programs of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League.
Ralph Bunche's enduring fame arose from his service to the U. S. Government and to the United Nations (UN). He served as an adviser to the Department of State and to the military on Africa and colonized areas of strategic military importance during World War II. From June of 1947 to August of 1949, he worked on the confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. In September of 1948, he was named acting UN mediator on Palestine, and was successful in obtaining signatures on armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States.
In 1949 he was awarded the Spingarn Prize by the NAACP, and within the next three years, was presented with over thirty honorary degrees. In 1950 Ralph Johnson Bunche was the first African American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.