Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1903 – December 9, 1971) was an American political scientist and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Palestine. He was the first person of color to be so honored in the history of the Prize. He was involved in formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy.
Bunche was born in Detroit, Michigan to an African American family; his father was a barber, his mother an amateur musician. His father had ancestors who were free before the American Revolution. They moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he was a child to improve his parents' health. His parents died soon after, and he was raised in Los Angeles by his grandmother.
Bunche was a brilliant student, a debater, and the valedictorian of his graduating class at Jefferson High School. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated summa cum laude in 1927, again as the valedictorian of his class. Using the money his community raised for his studies, and a scholarship from the University, he studied at Harvard University. There he earned a master's degree in political science in 1928 and a doctorate in 1934, when he was already teaching in Howard University's Department of Political Science. It was typical then for doctoral candidates to start teaching before completion of their dissertations. He was the first black American to gain a PhD in political science from an American university. From 1936 to 1938, Ralph Bunche conducted postdoctoral research in anthropology at London School of Economics (LSE), and later at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.