RALPH J. BUNCHE: THE SCHOLAR AND DIPLOMAT
MICHAEL FRAZIER, Ph.D.
The seventh edition of the Government & Politics Journal is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Ralph J. Bunche who was instrumental in establishing the Department of Government at Howard in 1928. Bunche served as professor and chair from 1928 – 1944. It has since been renamed the Department of Political Science.
Additionally, the Journal celebrates the legacy of Bunche as a scholar and diplomat. To date, 202 Ph.D.s have graduated from the department, the names of which are on the cover. As Dr. Lorenzo Morris, Chairman of the department, puts it, these graduates are the founding chair’s intellectual offspring.”
The essays in this edition highlight the many contributions of the first of only two African Americans to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the second being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Hanes Walton, professor at the University of Michigan and the first Ph.D. (1967) graduate of the Department of Political Science and colleague, Maxie Foster, Ph.D., for example, illustrate the diverse nature of Bunche in an essay about his service as a political consultant to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 1939 at their behest. The commemoration section of the journal synthesizes related works and includes a photo essay of the centenary conference held at Howard on October 14, 2004 under the theme “Moral Dilemma: A Dialogue in Contemporary Issues in Domestic and International Affairs.”
The luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Charles Henry, University of California reminded participants that Bunche’s A World View of Race “provides a unit of analysis; a description of how the world system operates and a set of proposed solutions. While one may disagree with his emphasis on class, it forces the critic to respond in kind. That is, one must provide a better, more comprehensive analysis than his. Despite his reliance on class analysis, his belief in democracy and his commitment to empiricism prevents Bunche from becoming rigid or doctrinaire. These qualities remain timeless.”
Bunche’s concern for the plight of Africa and the Middle East, is reflected in the work of Dr. Michael Asante’s, Ph.D., (1999) essay that addresses the Liberian Crisis, Raymond Muhula’s, Ph.D. (2005) insightful article explaining the genesis of Political Islam in the Middle East, and Professor Ben K. Fred-Mensah’s piece on the problems associated with regional security management and leadership issues in Africa. Beyond the concerns for Africa, professor Marilyn E. Lashley and Stacy-Ann Wilson, Ph.D. (2005) address multiethnic politics in the Republic of Fiji.
Perhaps the most far-reaching essay in the International Relations department is Dr. Nikolaos A. Stavrou’s “Illusions of World Order” commentary. His basic premise is that democracy cannot be cannot be dictated, exported, or imposed; it can only be emulated.
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It remains to be seen if Stavrou’s prophecy will be rebutted by events taking place daily in Iraq and the Middle East.
Domestically, Dr. Bunche advanced the study of American society through his contribution to Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma and his own book, A World View of Race. The second series of essays speak to his tradition of scholarship.
Many of Dr. Bunche’s intellectual offspring and professors in the department continue to follow the legacy he begun by integrating academic and social concerns to promote progressive outcomes. The honor roll of 197 political science Ph.D.s since 1967 is a lasting record of the legacy he started 78 years ago.
Dr. Michael Frazier, Executive Editor, Government and Politics Journal. Associate professor of Political Science, Howard University.