Ralph Bunche, Noble Peace Prize winner, civil rights leader and long-time undersecretary at the UN, was the first Frank Jacoby lecturer at UB in 1952.
Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1904 – December 9, 1971) was an American political scientist and diplomat, who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. He was the first person of color to be so honored in the history of the Prize. He was the grandson of a slave who achieved a doctorate from Harvard University.
In addition to his role in peacemaking, Bunche is remembered for his support of the civil and human rights movements. He did not found or serve as an officer of any civil rights organizations but through his writing and teaching he helped to provide a solid, intellectual foundation for anti-racist and civil rights activism.
He played an important role in the formation of the United Nations at both Dumbarton Oaks (1944) and San Fransisco (1945) representing the United States. In 1946, he was appointed director of the UN Trusteeship Department. He worked closely with the United Nation’s mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Folke Bernadotte, whom he succeeded in September 1948, following Bernadotte’s assassination. He continued to serve the UN as undersecretary for special political affairs.
In 1960, he was UN special envoy in the war-torn Congo. In 1963, he received the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson. “His message,” says his Nobel biography, “has been clear: Racial prejudice is an unreasoned phenomenon without scientific basis in biology or anthropology; ‘segregation and democracy are incompatible;’ blacks should maintain the struggle for equal rights while accepting the responsibilities that come with freedom; whites must demonstrate that ‘democracy is color-blind.'” Bunche strongly supported the UN’s peace-keeping role, pointing out that despite failures, the UN had the courage to do what the old League of Nations had failed to do, to “step in and tackle the buzz saw.”
The Frank Jacoby lectures were established at the University of Bridgeport in 1952 by the late Frank Jacoby “to further the brotherhood of man and equality of man regardless of race, color, or creed.”