Ralph Bunche Elementary School

Detroit, Michigan | C.1950

Photo Credit: Mike Moy

During the 1940s, when much of the world found itself thrust into international conflict, renowned political scientist, academic, and U.N. diplomat Ralph Bunche left an indelible mark through the peaceful measures he enacted. So much so, that many academic institutions now bear his name, including Ralph Bunche Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan.

Born in 1904 in Detroit, Bunche not only grew up to be a world-renowned diplomat but the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Awarded the Prize in 1950, Bunche was recognized for his successful peace negotiations in the Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean; most notably, the Armistice Agreements between Israel and four Arab states.

Along with his international peacekeeping efforts, Bunche was a passionate Civil Rights activist at home in America. His grandmother, Nana Johnson, had been born into slavery. Bunche participated in the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery walk alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy, awarded Bunche with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.

Bunche continued his illustrious career in the years to come working for the U.N. and taking on special assignments. In 1971, he passed away in New York City from a number of ailments. Over the course of his life, he received many accolades and over four dozen honorary doctorates. Yet, he was also remembered as a patient and optimistic man who was always willing to meet with both sides and use his meticulous and calm nature towards compromise.

Now Bunche’s impressive legacy also includes many elementary schools in Detroit and throughout the U.S. that carry his name. In Detroit there is the Bunche Preparatory Academy and Bunche Elementary-Middle School, located on Macomb Street — the same street where Bunche grew up.

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