Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

As Jim Haskins chronologically recounts the life and career of one of the United States’ most acclaimed peacemakers, two distinct stories emerge from the pages of Ralph Bunche: A Most Reluctant Hero. The first is a heartwarming and inspiring account of an American boy born into poverty who, through hard work and his own ability, became an individual who was acclaimed by all the world and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The second is the embarrassing record of an era when African Americans were segregated from the rest of society and denied not only their constitutional rights but simple human dignity as well.

In a short introduction, Haskins introduces his subject, Bunche, a man unknown to most Americans despite his international reputation for diplomacy. The author points out that Americans of all colors should be familiar with Bunche because he was a genuine American hero.

In his opening chapter, Haskins takes his readers back to the era into which Bunche was born. Although the author points out that racial prejudice was not pronounced in Detroit, the city of Bunche’s birth, Jim Crow laws and bigotry prevailed in much of the rest of the nation. Haskins also introduces in this first chapter the woman who had the greatest influence on Bunche’s life, his maternal grandmother, Lucy Johnson. The author then traces Bunche’s life from Detroit to Albuquerque, where Bunche moved with his family and where he first experienced...

(The entire section is 501 words.)