Black History Month Spotlight: Ralph Bunche, the UN’s ‘Incurable Optimist’

Every weekday this month, we’re profiling fascinating figures from L.A.’s Black history

For a running list of all our 2021 Black History Month profiles, click here.

Originally from Detroit, Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) moved to Los Angeles with his grandmother in 1918. A gifted intellectual, he graduated summa cum laude from UCLA and began a storied career as a diplomat, academic, and political scientist. After a highly successful stint at the State Department during WWII, he became the “incurable optimist” of the United Nations, drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1950, he became the first person of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded for his work in the Middle East as a UN mediator. In 1963 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and celebrated for his humanistic view of diplomacy. “The objective of any who sincerely believe in peace,” he stated, “clearly must be to exhaust every honorable recourse in the effort to save the peace.”

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