His Story: Ralph J. Bunche, PhD

“The real objective must always be the good life for all the people. International machinery will mean something to the common man throughout the world only when it is translated into terms that he can understand: peace, bread, housing, clothing, education, good health, and, above all, the right to walk with dignity on the world’s greatest boulevards.”
– Dr. Ralph J. Bunche

It is impossible to tell the story of RBSI without reflecting on the life and accomplishments of Dr. Bunche – a scholar, humanitarian, diplomat, civil rights activist, former president of APSA and the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Ralph Johnson Bunche graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles; earned his Masters degree in political science from Harvard University; and continued his studies at Harvard to become the first African American to earn a PhD in political science.

Bunche served as the founding chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, teaching generations of students to think strategically and intentionally about the world in which they lived and the possibilities and implications for the future. He was invited to join the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, at the start of World War II in Europe. From there, his public service career took him to the State Department and eventually to the United Nations where he championed human and civil rights for everyone. He believed in “the essential goodness of all people, and that no problem in human relations is insoluble.” In 1947, Bunche, as a UN emissary, became involved in negotiating the Arab-Israeli conflict. For achieving the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Dr. Bunche was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.

From 1953 to 1954, Bunche served as the president of APSA and was active in  helping to determine the future of the discipline as one that values freedom of inquiry, rigor, scholarly exploration, teaching and learning, international relations, associational collaboration and interdisciplinarity.

There are numerous research centers, libraries, schools, roads, and parks named for Ralph Johnson Bunche across the country and around the world. The APSA Ralph Bunche Summer Institute is a living legacy of Bunche’s belief in the importance of education and scholarly excellence as an imperative for all — especially for students of political science.