Ralph Bunche: An American Life

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9780393035278: Ralph Bunche: An American Life

From modest beginnings, Ralph Bunche rose to become one of the architects of the United Nations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was a most effective diplomat with a string of successes in the world's trouble spots including Palestine, Cyprus and the Congo. In this portrayal, we see how Bunche's racial consciousness and pride were forged and how they sustained him through a lifetime's battle with prejudice, from his work at the United Nations to his sympathetic engagement with both Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The first full-dress biography of Bunche--and one that brings to life the many achievements of a remarkable diplomat. Drawing on access to Bunche's private papers and to knowledge gained during his stint as Bunche's assistant at the UN, Urquhart (A Life in Peace and War, 1987; Hammarskjold, 1972) offers a nuanced portrait of an exceptional man who began as a militant critic of white America and ended as a member of its establishment. Bunche, the grandson of a former slave, graduated from UCLA in 1927, earned a doctorate at Harvard, and helped Gunnar Myrdal research his landmark study, An American Dilemma. During WW II, the future UN undersecretary general served with the OSS, moving in 1944 to the State Department, where--in his capacity as head of the section dealing with colonial affairs--he participated in the founding of the UN and the drafting of its charter. In the wake of his appointment to the UN Secretariat, Bunche negotiated the 1949 armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a feat that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. As the secretary-general's chief troubleshooter, he directed missions to defuse the Suez, Congo, Cyprus, and other crises. Though a world-class statesmen widely esteemed for his mediation talents, the globe-trotting Bunche (who died in 1971 at age 67) remained a second-class citizen subject to racial discrimination in the US--where he was visibly, if judiciously, active in the civil-rights movement. Throughout, Urquhart provides perceptive accounts of Bunche's many appearances on the international stage, plus valuable perspectives on his relations with a close-knit family. As additional archival material becomes available, scholars will no doubt pay closer attention to Bunche's extraordinary accomplishments as a peacemaker. But be that as it may, Urquhart's scrupulously documented, wide-angle narrative bids fair to become a standard reference on the man. (Photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Although it does not ignore his personal life, this substantial, sympathetic biography emphasizes the Nobel Prize-winning African American diplomat's remarkable international career. Growing up in Los Angeles, Bunche (1903-1971) credited his grandmother with instilling his respect for education; he would later study at UCLA and Harvard, pursuing his interest in the oppressed peoples of the world, whom he saw as having much in common with American blacks. The unpretentious Bunche followed his international concerns, moving from the OSS to the State Department, and finally, in 1945, to the nascent United Nations, where he would do his greatest work, including his Nobel-winning diplomacy in Palestine. Urquhart ( Hammarskjold ) first met Bunche in 1945 and was his chief assistant at the U.N. from 1954-1971, so it is surprising that there are few personal anecdotes here about Bunche's skirmishes with McCarthyism, his involvement with atomic energy policy as a U.N. undersecretary, his negotiations in newly decolonized Congo and his other efforts. While Urquhart does recount Bunche's opposition to separatist Black Power advocates and his unheeded prescriptions for inner-city development, he does not assess Bunche's current place in the views of African Americans. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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