Board: 34.3 x 31.4 x 0.5cm (13 1/2 x 12 3/8 x 3/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Orphaned at twelve and forced to work odd jobs to support his grandmother and two sisters, Ralph Bunche would not only achieve intellectual distinction-contributing reports to the classic work of African American sociology An American Dilemma-but would also become one of America's most trusted and prestigious diplomats. Bunche taught political science at Howard University, was an adviser to the State Department, and a strategist for the San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations in 1945. Later, in his position with the UN Trusteeship Division, he negotiated an armistice in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. In the 1960s Bunche lent his prestige to the civil rights movement, and in 1963 he received the Medal of Freedom from President Kennedy.
Time magazine commissioned this portrait for a cover story in 1950, coinciding with Bunche's Nobel Prize, but it was bumped by another story and was never published.