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Ralph Joseph Bunche

American diplomat and recipient of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for mediation during Arab-Israeli war.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1904, Bunche was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo, Norway for his successful mediation of a series of armistice agreements between the new nation of Israel and four Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria i n 1950.

It was the first, and to date, it remains the only time that all the parties to the Middle East conflict signed armistice agreements with Israel. In being awarded the Peace Prize, Bunche became the first person of color in the world to be so honored. (Other notable contenders for the prize that year included Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Albert Schweitzer and George C. Marshall.) 

Bunche entered the field of U.S. diplomacy while serving in the Office of Strategic Services and the State Department during the 1940s. In 1947, he was appointed to the United Nations and served as an aide on the U.N. Palestine Commission, a special committee formed to seek an end to the crisis over Israel’s movement toward independence. When the chief U.N. mediator between Israel and its Arab opponents died in early 1949, Bunche was thrust into a leading role in the process and proved instrumental in the successful negotiation of a cease-fire between the warring parties. Bunche continued his important role at the U.N. and was noted for his expertise on colonial affairs and race relations. He died in 1971.