This Day in History: 1950-03-20

Ralph Johnson Bunche, PhD, an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat, receives the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Israel. Dr. Bunche was the first African American to be so honored.

Dr Bunche graduated graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1927 as the valedictorian of his class from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned a doctorate in political science from Harvard University in 1934, the first African American to gain a PhD in political science from an American university. He published his first book, World View of Race, in 1936. From 1928 to 1950, Dr Bunche served as chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, where he also taught generations of students. Dr Bunche was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1950, the first Black member to be inducted into the Society since its founding in 1743. Dr Bunche was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations and played a major role in numerous peacekeeping operations sponsored by the UN. In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy. Learn more.