Ralph Bunche: An American Life

Ralph Bunche: An American Life

by Brian Urquhart

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 . (Aug.)
The biography of international mediator and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche. Bunche is portrayed as an inspiring leader who had a profound impact on Arab-Israeli relations and contributed to the peace process around the world. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Mary Carroll
Urquhart's respectful but revealing life of the African American political scientist and UN diplomat is timely for a variety of reasons. Not least is the central role Bunche played in establishing--in the crisis atmosphere of the international organization's first decades--definitions of the nature and functions of UN peacekeeping forces, definitions only now being called into question by "new world disorder" conflicts in Cambodia, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia. Urquhart, Bunche's chief assistant at the UN, 1954-1971, describes Bunche's itinerant childhood, academic background, teaching and research, OSS service in World War II, significant contributions at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference of Allied leaders, and troubleshooting and mediation on behalf of the UN throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Drawing heavily from his subject's personal papers as well as the support and recollections of the Bunche family, Urquhart has made a fascinating narrative of the accomplishments of an American-born international diplomat whose behavior convinced even his critics of the sincerity of the "driving passion for peace, for justice, and for human decency and dignity" that Bunche's last boss, Secretary General U Thant, remarked in him.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.47(h) x 1.69(d)

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