Ralph Bunche: An American Life

Brian Urquhart, Author W. W. Norton & Company $27.5 (496p) ISBN 978-0-393-03527-8
Although it does not ignore his personal life, this substantial, sympathetic biography emphasizes the Nobel Prize-winning African American diplomat's remarkable international career. Growing up in Los Angeles, Bunche (1903-1971) credited his grandmother with instilling his respect for education; he would later study at UCLA and Harvard, pursuing his interest in the oppressed peoples of the world, whom he saw as having much in common with American blacks. The unpretentious Bunche followed his international concerns, moving from the OSS to the State Department, and finally, in 1945, to the nascent United Nations, where he would do his greatest work, including his Nobel-winning diplomacy in Palestine. Urquhart ( Hammarskjold ) first met Bunche in 1945 and was his chief assistant at the U.N. from 1954-1971, so it is surprising that there are few personal anecdotes here about Bunche's skirmishes with McCarthyism, his involvement with atomic energy policy as a U.N. undersecretary, his negotiations in newly decolonized Congo and his other efforts. While Urquhart does recount Bunche's opposition to separatist Black Power advocates and his unheeded prescriptions for inner-city development, he does not assess Bunche's current place in the views of African Americans. Photos not seen by PW . (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-393-31859-3
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