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Finding Aid for Bunche, Ralph/FBI File
Inventory of the Ralph J. Bunche Papers, 1922-1988
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10037-1801
©2000 The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
- Descriptive Summary
- Scope and Content Note
- Separation Record
- Family Papers, 1922-1988
- Correspondence, 1929-1971
- Addresses, Articles and Essays, 1928-1969
- South Africa Trip, 1937
- Howard University, 1928-1941
- Carnegie-Myrdal Study, 1938-1941
- Trusteeship Council, 1946-1950
- Awards, Membership and Tributes, 1927-1984
- Scrapbooks, 1930-1971
- Printed Matter, 1931-1975
Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Gift of the Bunche Family, 1990.
Ralph Johnson Bunche began his career as an educator and a political scientist, and later joined the United Nations, serving for the last twenty years of his life as a special assistant to the General Secretary of that world body.
Born in 1904 of a working class family in Detroit, Michigan, Bunche went to live with his maternal grandmother in Los Angeles, California, after the death of his mother in 1917. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 1921, the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and the Harvard Graduate School in 1928. In 1929 he was awarded the Ozias Goodwin Memorial Fellowship at Harvard. His doctoral dissertation “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey” received the Toppan Prize in 1934. Bunche conducted post-doctoral work in anthropology and colonial policy at Northwestern University in 1936, the London School of Economics in 1937 and the University of Capetown, South Africa, in 1938. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Bunche met Ruth Harris in Washington, D.C. at the start of his career at Howard University in 1928. They married in 1930. Born in Montgomery, Ala. in 1906 and the youngest of ten children, she graduated from Alabama State Normal and the Minor Normal School in Washington, D.C. where she worked as a teacher in the city's public school. Her father, Charles Harris, was the chief mailing clerk and a prominent civic leader in Montgomery. The Bunche couple had three children: Joan, Jane and Ralph, Jr.
Ralph Bunche joined the staff of Howard University in 1928, first as a lecturer and later as the chairman of the Department of Political Science. While at Howard, he organized a series of conferences on the problems of African-American communities in the United States. He joined various committees protesting discrimination by department stores and theaters, and organized his students to join picket lines in Washington, D.C. In 1932, Bunche traveled to West and North Africa on a Rosenwald Fellowship to survey French colonial administration. His pamphlet “A World View of Peace” was published in 1936. The same year, he received a two year Social Science Research Council Fellowship for field and research work in Africa and Europe.
Bunche took a leave of absence from Howard University in 1938 and joined the staff of the Carnegie Corporation in conducting and organizing a comprehensive survey of the social, political and economic status of blacks in the United States. Entitled “The Negro in America” and also known as the “Carnegie-Myrdal Study,” the survey was directed by the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, and was based on the field work and the extensive research memoranda prepared by a staff of scholars and collaborators. In addition to coordinating various administrative aspects of the project, Bunche conducted several field trips in the South in 1939 and was the author of four sizable research memoranda: “A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership,” “Conceptions and Ideologies of the Negro Problem,” “The Political Status of the Negro” and “The Programs, Ideologies, Tactics and Achievements of Negro Betterment and Interracial Organizations.” These works are quoted extensively in Myrdal's American Dilemma (Harper & Brothers, 1944).
After the entrance of the United States in the Second World War, Bunche accepted a temporary assignment at the State Department, working first as a Senior Research Analyst in the Office of Strategic Services and, in 1944, as an area specialist for Africa and dependent territories. He became a member of the U.S. delegation at the founding of the United Nations in 1945, serving consecutively as Acting Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs, Commissioner of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission and, in 1946, as Director of the Division of Trusteeship.
Bunche joined the Permanent Secretariat of the United Nations in 1948 with the title of Principal Director of the Trusteeship Council. Known also as Committee Four of the General Assembly, the Council supervised the administration of colonial territories formerly belonging to Germany. These territories included French and British Togoland, the French and British Cameroons, the Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi, New Guinea and Western Samoa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and the Arab states in 1948, and was also credited for his role in organizing the U.N. Green Berets. He also played a major role in the day to day work of the organization, and enjoyed a wide reputation for his integrity, his commitment to world peace and his gift as a negotiator and administrator. Gravely ill toward the end of his life, Ralph Bunche retired from the United Nations in 1971, the year of his death.
Ralph Bunche enjoyed wide prominence and respect both as a scholar and statesman. A political moderate, he believed in petitioning government for justice but did not hesitate to march in protest when all else failed. During the 1960s, however, he came under attack for his apparent lack of support and identification with the politics of protest and direct action advocated by the civil rights movement of that era. He was also criticized for his role in the Congo after the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force in preventing the overthrow and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Bunche is honored today, nonetheless, as an outstanding world leader and as a role model in the African American community.
Scope and Content Note
The Ralph Bunche Papers document Bunche's personal life and professional career, from his enrollment at the University of California to his retirement in 1971. They have been divided into the following series: FAMILY PAPERS, comprising personal and biographical materials on Ralph and Ruth Bunche; CORRESPONDENCE, both family and general; ADDRESSES, ARTICLES AND ESSAYS; the HOWARD UNIVERSITY files, comprising administrative and academic materials; the SOUTH AFRICA RESEARCH TRIP in 1937; writings and research materials for the CARNEGIE-MYRDAL STUDY; working papers, mimeographed reports and printed matter relating to the United Nations' TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL; AWARDS, MEMBERSHIPS AND TRIBUTES; SCRAPBOOKS; PRINTED MATTER AND CLIPPINGS.
FAMILY PAPERS (1922-1988) comprise personal papers of Ralph and Ruth Harris Bunche. The Ralph Bunche subseries includes educational, medical and financial papers, passports, personal and family documents. The Ruth Harris Bunche subseries consists of general and professional correspondence, speeches and miscellaneous writings, certificates and awards, scrapbooks and printed matter. The correspondence reflects her contributions to various benefits, charities and social activities, sponsored in many cases by wives of influential men such as David Rockefeller, Walter White, Vladimir Horowitz, Count Bernadotte and Roy Wilkins. Other noted correspondents include Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Eubie Blake, Marian Anderson, Edward Koch, Irving Berlin, Jeane Kirkpatrick and George Bush. Mrs. Bunche served as a New York State delegate to the White House Conference on Education in 1955. She participated, along with her husband, in the March on Washington in 1963.
The CORRESPONDENCE series (1929-1971) is divided into Family and General Correspondence
The subseries consists of letters exchanged between Ralph Bunche and his wife from 1929 to 1944, letters from his aunts Nelle and Ethel Johnson, his sister Grace Robinson, his mother Olive, correspondence with his children, and occasional correspondence between the Bunche household and the Harris, Johnson and Taylor families.
General Correspondence consists of three separate files: correspondence from his residency in London in 1937; correspondence relating to his retirement in 1971; and occasional correspondence between 1928 and 1971. Noted correspondents include Walter White, Alain Locke, George Padmore, T.R. Makonnen and Eric Williams.
ADDRESSES, ARTICLES AND ESSAYS (1928-1969) are divided into two subseries: Conferences and Academic Writings and Addresses and Articles.
The first subseries consists primarily of essays, articles and reviews written by Bunche, in addition to research notes and typescripts of his master's thesis “The Political Theory of Sir Robert Filmer” and his doctoral dissertation “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey.”
Addresses and Articles consist of files of Bunche's handwritten and typescript articles and speeches, with attachments. Spanning from 1951 to 1969, they are arranged chronologically, and alphabetically therein. Addressed mainly to academic and university audiences, and to civic and international gatherings, they deal with issues of world peace and his role at the United Nations. Also included are eulogies, television interviews and acceptance speeches for prizes, awards and honorary degrees conferred on him. Other writings by Bunche are located in the Carnegie-Myrdal series.
The SOUTH AFRICA RESEARCH TRIP series (1937) consists of letters of recommendation, correspondence with the United States Department of State, South African officials and the Rosenwald Fund, in addition to field notes, legal documents and printed matter.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY (1928-1941). Divided into correspondence and office files and arranged alphabetically, materials in this series reflect the scope of Bunche's activities during his tenure at this institution. Included are class syllabi, students' examinations and grades, lecture notes, reports and printed matter. Correspondents include Saul Bellow, Rupert Emerson, Melville Herskovits, Benjamin Azikiwe, and many of his colleagues at Howard: E.P. Davis, Emmett Dorsey, Mordecai Johnson, Charles H. Wesley, Frederick Wilkinson and Eric Williams.
CARNEGIE-MYRDAL STUDY. This series consists of correspondence, draft manuscripts and typescripts of memoranda written by Bunche, as well as interviews, reports and field notes prepared by Bunche, Myrdal and a staff of assistants and collaborators. This material is arranged into four subseries: research and administrative correspondence and memoranda, arranged alphabetically and chronologically; research memoranda prepared by Bunche; reports, field notes and research materials filed by the name of their creators; reports, field notes and research materials filed by city, by county or by state; and printed matter. The memorandum on “Negro Leadership” is incomplete, while separate files exist for each chapter of the lengthy “Programs, Ideologies, Tactics and Achievements of Negro Betterment and Interracial Organizations,” along with questionnaires and questionnaire analyses prepared for the study. Principal contributors to this series, in addition to Bunche and Myrdal, include George Stoney, Whilhelmina Jackson and James Jackson. Major surveys were conducted in St. Louis and Kansas City (Missouri); Jackson, Vicksburg and Natchez county (Mississippi); Birmingham, Huntsville, Godsen and Tuskegee
(Alabama); Chattanooga, Tuscalooga and Nashville (Tennessee); Cleveland and Dayton (Ohio); Augusta, Atlanta, Savannah and Putnam County (Georgia); Charleston, the Sea Islands, Columbia, Winston-Salem and Greensville (South Carolina); Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami (Florida); and in Little Rock, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oklahoma City. Materials collected include voting charts, annotated city maps indicating segregated boundaries, campaign literature, newsletters and pamphlets.
TRUSTEESHIP COUNCIL (1946-1950). Working papers and mimeographed reports of the Trusteeship Council (1946-1950). Committee Four of the General Assembly (the Trusteeship Council) appointed a Sub-Committee of seventeen members, in 1946, to examine and make recommendations to the Fourth Committee on trusteeship agreements proposed for the mandated territories by the corresponding colonial governments. Working papers leading to the formation of the Sub-Committee, proceedings of its 26 meetings, the proposed agreements, in addition to amendments and modifications, statements and resolutions from the various delegations, are included in the files of the Sub-Committee. A major part of this series consists of the complete verbatim records of the 81 meetings of the Trusteeship Council at its sixth session in 1950. Also included are petitions from civic and political associations in the mandated territories challenging colonial rule on such issues as forced labor, abuse of authority and trade-union restrictions.
AWARDS, MEMBERSHIP AND TRIBUTES (1927-1984). This series consists of correspondence, certificates, programs, invitations and souvenir journals of luncheons, testimonial dinners and banquets held in Bunche's honor, in addition to documents relating to various memorial tributes and commemorative events following his death. The latter category includes the Ralph Bunche Memorial at the United Nations, the Ralph Bunche Institute of the United Nations at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, the Ralph Bunche School, the Peace Form One Memorial Project, the Ralph Bunche Memorial at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and the “Peace to One” musical tribute by Oscar Brown, Jr. Also included are a letter from President Lyndon Johnson to Bunche awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, and a letter from U.N. Secretary General U. Thant to Mrs. Bunche awarding a posthumous Peace Medal to her husband in 1972.
SCRAPBOOKS (1930-1972): the Howard University Scrapbook which consists of memorabilia and press clippings, 1930-1939; Ruth Bunche's Art Student Scrapbook, 1934-1935; the “Voices of American Liberty” Scrapbook presented to Ralph Bunche at Lord and Taylor's Nineteenth Annual Luncheon on March 18, 1956; the Ralph Bunche Hall Scrapbook at the University of California at Los Angeles; the Jane Bunche Pierce Memorial Scrapbook (1966) consisting of condolence letters, telegrams and sympathy cards, following her death in 1966 (3 volumes); the Ralph Bunche Memorial Scrapbook (1971 - 1972) and the “Peace Form One” Scrapbook (1980) marking the dedication ceremony of the Ralph Bunche Memorial Monument near the United Nations. The Ralph Bunche Memorial Scrapbook consists of seven separate volumes. The first five volumes contains telegrams, sympathy cards and letters of condolence, with attachments, arranged alphabetically. Volume 6 includes obituaries, memorial tributes, registers and printed matter. Volume 7 consists of condolence letters with attachments received by U.N. General Secretary U. Thant, with carbon copies of his replies.
PRINTED MATTER AND CLIPPINGS (1931 - 1971) relates primarily to Ralph Bunche, his family life and his career at the United Nations.
The following items were removed from:
Name of Collection: Ralph Bunche Papers
Accession Numbers: SCM 90-1
Donor: Ms. Joan Bunche
Date received: 1990
Date transferred: 1990, 1991.
The item(s) listed below have been sent to the division indicated, either to be retained or disposed of there. Any items that should receive special disposition are clearly marked.