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Bunche--Give protesting students a medal of honor: 1934 | by Washington Area Spark
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Bunche--Give protesting students a medal of honor: 1934

Ralph Johnson Bunche is shown in a photograph circa 1946-47.


Bunche was an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Israel. He was the first African American to be so honored in the history of the prize.


He was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy.


For more than two decades (1928 to 1950), Bunche served as chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, where he also taught generations of students. He served as a member of the Board of Overseers of his alma mater, Harvard University (1960–1965), as a member of the board of the Institute of International Education, and as a trustee of Oberlin College, Lincoln University, and New Lincoln School.


During World War II Bunche joined the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – the precursor organization to the Central Intelligence Agency.


While a professor at Howard University in 1934, he chaired the student disciplinary committee that was composed of faculty.


Thirty Howard students went to the U.S. Capitol and attempted to use direct action to end Jim Crow and the House and Senate public restaurants. Five students were arrested although all charges were dropped.


The president of Howard, Mordecai Johnson, wanted the students expelled or suspended. After the student each testified before the committee, some faculty wanted to adopt Johnson’s suggestion.


However, Bunche argued that they should be given the medal of honor instead of discipline. Bunche’s position won the day and the students weren’t disciplined.


For a detailed blog post on the effort to end Jim Crow at the U.S. Capitol public restaurants, see,


For related images on the effort to end Jim Crow at the U.S Capitol public restaurants, see


Photo by Robert S. Scurlock. The image is a Scurlock Studio photograph courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of

American History.

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Taken circa 1946