Plot & Details
Ralph Bunche was arguably the most distinguished and honored African-American of his generation. Born in 1904, Bunche refused to accept the limitations American society presented to people of color, and at an early age he became an advocate for new possibilities for blacks. He graduated with honors from U.C.L.A. in 1927, and soon after was hired as a professor of political science at Howard University. In the early 1930s, Bunche published an acclaimed and prescient article on the possible impact of fascism in Europe, "A World View of Race," that led to his being hired by Frankin D. Roosevelt to join the U.S. State Department. In 1945, Bunche was named head of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs, making him the first African-American to lead a departmental division of the federal government. In 1946, Bunche was called upon to help write the charter that formed the United Nations, and he negotiated a peace treaty ending the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, which earned Bunche the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize. Bunche was also an avid supporter of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, but his quiet, dignified manner and belief that blacks should attempt to work within the system to gain social and political equality was seen by many as support of a system that held down minority group members, and his impact as a leader shrank with time. Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey is a documentary that examines Bunche's public and private lives, featuring archival photos and newsreel footage of Bunche, excerpts from his writings and speeches, and interviews with his friends, family members, and colleagues. Sidney Poitier narrates. Produced for public television, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey was also shown at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.