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Finding Aid for the Ralph J. Bunche papers, 1927-1971
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ralph J. Bunche papers
    Date (inclusive): 1927-1971
    Collection number: 2051
    Creator: Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson), 1904-1971
    Extent: 442 boxes (221 linear ft.) 7 cartons 47 oversize boxes
    Abstract: Ralph J. Bunche (1904-1971) graduated from UCLA and Harvard University, and was a professor at Howard University (1929-1950). He joined the Permanent Secretariat of the United Nations in 1948, served as the undersecretary for special political affairs (1958-67), and then became undersecretary general in 1968. In 1950, Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The collection consists of correspondence, speeches, manuscripts, articles, publications, and photographs related to Ralph J. Bunche's life and career.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Series 21, subseries 1: Personal Correspondence between Ralph J. Bunche and Ruth H. Bunche (boxes 476-480) is closed until the deaths of both Joan H. Bunche and Ralph Bunche Jr.
    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    • Gift of Mrs. Ruth H. Bunche, 1976, 1982.
    • Gift of Brian Urquhart, 1995.
    • Gift of Joan H. Bunche, 1995.

    Processing Note

    In 2008-2009 the Bunche Papers were re-processed by Amelia Acker, with assistance from Megan Hahn Fraser, in order to facilitate access with a more consistent arrangement scheme and improved description. Materials were re-organized, and re-housed for better preservation.
    A copy of the previous finding aid is maintained on site for researcher reference.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ralph J. Bunche papers (Collection 2051). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 709517 


    Bunche, Ralph Johnson (7 Aug. 1904-9 Dec. 1971), scholar and diplomat, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an "e" to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in political science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles or UCLA). He graduated summa cum laude and served as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his M.A. in 1928, then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his Ph.D. at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris; they had three children. Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching his dissertation and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in February 1934.
    Concerned with the problems facing African Americans in the United States, Bunche published numerous articles on racial issues and the monograph A World View of Race (1936). He and his colleague John P. Davis organized a 1935 conference called "The Status of the Negro under the New Deal," at which Bunche criticized the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. He was also involved in the creation of the National Negro Congress, an attempt to bring white Americans and African Americans of different social and economic backgrounds together to discuss race matters. In the final years of the decade Bunche contributed research and reports to a Carnegie study on American race relations headed by sociologist Gunnar Myrdal. The resulting work, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, published in 1944, was a landmark study of racial conflicts in the United States.
    The rise of totalitarianism in Europe and the outbreak of war in 1939 worried Bunche, who feared that a Nazi victory in Europe would spur the growth of fascism in the United States, with disastrous consequences for African Americans. In 1941 he entered public service, accepting a position as a senior analyst in the Office of the Coordinator of Information (later the Office of Strategic Services). As head of the Africa Section, Bunche urged his superiors to approach the problem of postwar decolonization of European holdings in Africa. His proposal was rejected, and he transferred to the Department of State in 1944.
    Bunche served as an adviser to the American delegations at the conferences in Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco concerning the creation of the United Nations (UN). Recognized for his contributions on colonial and trusteeship policies, he was appointed a member of the U.S. delegation to the 1945 meeting of the Preparatory Commission of the UN and the first session of the UN General Assembly in 1946. In April 1946 Bunche took a temporary position on the United Nations Secretariat as director of the trusteeship position. The temporary position became permanent, and he served on the UN Secretariat for the remainder of his life.
    In 1947 Bunche was appointed to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. He drafted both the majority report, which recommended a partition of the territory between Palestinians and Jews, and the minority report, which called for the creation of a federal state. The UN General Assembly accepted the partition plan, and Bunche was named the principal secretary for a commission designed to oversee its implementation. With the outbreak of war in 1948, Bunche was appointed as an assistant to the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte. Following Bernadotte's assassination in September of that year, Bunche became the acting mediator. He successfully negotiated armistice agreements between Israel and several Arab states and was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
    Bunche's commitment to the United Nations did not prevent him from speaking out against racial discrimination in the United States. In 1949 he turned down a position as assistant secretary of state, noting that he did not want to experience the blatant discrimination against African Americans that existed in the nation's capital.
    Bunche was appointed an undersecretary-general for special political affairs in 1954. With the outbreak of the Suez crisis in 1956, he was again called upon to use his diplomatic skills in a Middle Eastern conflict, and he organized the UN Emergency Force that was responsible for peacekeeping activities in the region. His Middle East experience prepared him for the difficulties he faced in 1960, when he organized and commanded both the military and civilian branches of the UN peacekeeping force sent to the Congo. He again directed a peacekeeping force when conflicts erupted on the island of Cyprus in 1964.
    Bunche continued to press for the civil rights of African Americans. Though he still hoped for a society free from racial division, the civil rights conflicts of the late 1960s troubled him greatly. He participated in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery with Martin Luther King, Jr. However, Bunche found himself under attack from leaders, such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, who argued that he had served white society and abandoned his African heritage. In turn, Bunche denounced the separatist agenda of the Black Power movement. Health problems, many related to his diabetes, slowed him in the final years of his life. He died in New York City.
    During his lifetime Bunche garnered international recognition and numerous rewards for his United Nations service, including the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 1963. Though his position earned him the derision of many civil rights leaders in the 1960s, he was dedicated to the cause of African-American civil rights throughout his career. By using his diplomatic skills in the service of the United Nations, he promoted the cause of peace in a world that sorely needed men of dedication and ability in this area.
    Thomas Clarkin. "Bunche, Ralph Johnson"; http://www.anb.org/articles/07/07-00424.html  ; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.

    Scope and Content

    Collection consists of correspondence, speeches, manuscripts, articles, publications, photographs, and awards related to the life and career of Ralph J. Bunche. Includes materials related to his teaching and research, his affiliations with various service organizations, educational institutions and international conferences.
    The collection includes Bunche's graduate research materials on Africa (photographs and field notes); research and reports from his participation in the Carnegie-Myrdal study on race in the America; U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) reports; Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) documents; materials related to Bunche's involvement with the United Nations (UN), including Trusteeship records, and materials dealing with his appointment as undersecretary of the UN in 1954; and material related to Bunche's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    • 1. University of California, Los Angeles, 1922-1927.
    • 2. Harvard Graduate School, 1927-1934.
    • 3. Howard University, 1928-1952.
    • 4. Social Science Research Council Fieldwork, 1936-1938.
    • 5. Carnegie-Myrdal Study, 1936-1943.
    • 6. Office of Strategic Services, 1941-1944.
      • 6.1 Interviews, Studies and Reports on Africa
      • 6.2 French Africa materials
      • 6.3 North Africa materials
      • 6.4 South Africa materials
      • 6.5 Portuguese Africa materials
      • 6.6 British Africa materials
      • 6.7 Liberia materials
      • 6.8 Memoranda and notes
      • 6.9 Surveys on Africa
    • 7. Institute of Pacific Relations, 1942-1952.
    • 8. Department of State, 1943-1947.
    • 9. United Nations Materials, 1943-1965.
      • 9.1 Trusteeship Council
      • 9.2 UN General materials
    • 10. Loyalty Board Hearings, 1933-1954.
    • 11. Correspondence, 1927-1971.
    • 12. Calendars, Diaries, and Notes, 1930-1970.
    • 13. Organizations and Associations, 1935-1967.
    • 14. Speeches, Interviews, and Broadcasted Recordings, 1926-1969.
    • 15. Articles, Manuscripts, and Publications, 1928-1971.
    • 16. Photographs and Albums, 1924-1990.
    • 17. Honorary Degrees, Awards, Trophies, 1932-1971.
      • 17.1 Honorary Degrees
      • 17.2 Awards, Citations, and Honors
      • 17.3 Nobel Prize Materials
      • 17.4 Medals, Plaques, and Trophies
    • 18. Trips, Events, and Memorabilia, 1931-1967.
    • 19. Clippings, Scrapbooks, and Publications, 1922-1991.
      • 19.1 Articles and Clippings
      • 19.2 Scrapbooks
      • 19.3 Publications received
    • 20. Films and Audio Recordings, 1937-1975.
    • 21. Personal and Family Papers, 1916-1992.
      • 21.1 Personal Correspondence: CLOSED.
      • 21.2 Ralph Bunche
      • 21.3 Ruth Bunche
      • 21.4 Bunche Family
      • 21.5 Ralph Bunche memorials and tributes

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson), 1904-1971--Archives.
    United Nations--Officials and employees, American--Archival resources.
    Myrdal, Gunnar, 1898- -- American dilemma.
    Statesmen--United States--Archival resources.
    Civil rights workers--United States--Archival resources.

    Related Material

    Remembering Ralph Bunche [oral history transcript] / Charles H. Matthews, interviewee. UCLA Oral History Department interview, 1973. Available at the UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.
    Grace M. Thomas Collection about Ralph Bunche (Collection 2079).   Available at the UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.
    Brian Urquhart Collection of Material about Ralph Bunche (Collection 364)  . Available at the UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.
    Ralph J. Bunche Papers, Collection Sc MG 290.   Available at The New York Public Library Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
    UN Archives in New York City: http://archives-trim.un.org/