Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The 2003 Charles H. Thompson Lecture-Colloquium Presentation: Ralph Bunche: University and Diplomatic Legacies Fostering Innovative Paradigms

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The 2003 Charles H. Thompson Lecture-Colloquium Presentation: Ralph Bunche: University and Diplomatic Legacies Fostering Innovative Paradigms

Article excerpt

This article is based upon the 2003 24th Annual Charles H. Thompson Lecture at Howard University. It devotes attention to the nexuses between Ralph Bunche's scholarly publications and diplomatic speeches and their relationships to contemporary university plans and programs to address ongoing crises. In-depth interviews with a university chancellor and a president at two major public research universities-the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor-were undertaken in order to ascertain the current roles of universities as they directly and/or indirectly build upon Bunche's conceptual writings, policy perspectives, and higher education program implementation.

Little could the parents of Ralph Johnson Bunche envision on August 7, 1903, that their newborn son would become one of the 20th century's foremost diplomats and world scholars. During the middle part of the 20th century, Ralph Bunche was internationally renowned as a Nobel Peace Laureate-the first person of color to achieve this distinction-for negotiating armistices between Israel and Arab states in 1949. Within this period, the Nobel Laureate was being investigated by the House Committee on Un-American activities for his alleged ties to the Communist Party and its endeavors in the United States. Simultaneously, Bunche's former colleagues from Howard University (such as historian John Hope Franklin) and students (such as psychologist Kenneth Clark) were preparing the historical, educational, psychological, and legal arguments for eliminating separate but equal public school systems for African Americans and European American students (Henry 1999; Keppel, 1995). Most Americans and many international scholars and policymakers are aware of the historical Supreme Court decision on May 17, 1954-Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas-which declared that "separate but equal" were inherently unequal. During that same week in May 1954, the House Committee cleared Bunche of alleged ties to the Communist Party.

A half-century later, numerous educational institutions and organizations are commemorating the Brown decision. Fifty years later, Bunche is now known primarily in select academic and diplomatic circles. To rectify this absent legacy and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bundle's birth, a national Centenary Committee (with Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush and United Nations secretary Kofi Annan as honorary chairs and co-chaired by a diplomat who held six ambassadorial posts, a knighted United Nations executive, and a university director emeritus of a Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies) is undertaking a careful portrait and dissemination of the diplomatic, international relations, public policy, and educational contributions of Ralph Bunche (Ralph Bunche Centenary, 2004).

The Journal of Negro Education is devoting its spring 2004 issue to an exploration and analysis of Bunche's contributions to education and domestic and international diplomacy. This lead article provides a general overview of Bundle's life by explicating educational and policy contributions of Bunche particularly as they pertain to contemporary universities. Other scholars and diplomats devote detailed attention to his life via examinations of his original and lingering influences on progressive social movements, specific disciplinary frameworks (such as political science, race relations, public policy, and globalization), and diplomacy within the United Nations.


To begin our conceptual examination, we build upon the historical, sociological, and political science literature by and about Bunche (Bunche, 1941; Henry 1999; Keppel, 1995; Urquhart 1993) and the nexuses between diplomacy and education (Amin, 1997; Clark, 1990; Lindsay 2003; Stromquist, 2002). Based upon tenets of these scholarly and diplomatic works, a salient overarching question is posited: What components of Bunche's scholarly and diplomatic skills may be used to facilitate contemporary college and university endeavors as they address pressing diplomatic and public policies after September 11th or ongoing crises in the Middle East and other hot spots? …

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