Ralph J. Bunche Essay - Critical Context

J. Alvin Kugelmass

Critical Context

The work of Bunche was groundbreaking and of vital importance at the time that it was conducted. The fact that the Israeli-Arab problem continues to exist does not diminish his work, but rather emphasizes the need of more diplomats with his special strengths, creativity, and dedication to problem solving. The fact that Bunche is relatively unknown to the current generation of readers makes this book an important contribution.

At the time that this book was written, Bunche was still alive and the information contained in the book was current history. This fact provides the book with a sense of immediacy that is appealing. There is, however, no attempt made to place Bunche’s accomplishments in any historical framework; it is as if the slice of history that is portrayed in this book could have occurred in almost any period. While this effect may be an effort to make the book timeless, it also makes the work have less impact on the developing historical knowledge of the young reader.

The initial chapter and repeated references throughout the book attempt to emphasize the significance of Bunche’s success as an African American. Yet, the portrayal of Bunche himself is one of a person who was realistic about sociological viewpoints while living his own life in a color-blind manner. The importance of this dual point of view varies from generation to generation, and its appeal or lack of appeal may be attributable mostly to the reader’s experiences and personal set of prejudices. It would be to the reader’s benefit to have other books available on Bunche’s life in order to compare points of view. Yet there are few books written about Bunche’s life that would be appropriate for young people. Therefore, Kugelmass’ book helps to fill a void in young adult biography.