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Ralph Bunche Park

Peace Form One map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This monumental stainless steel obelisk by Daniel LaRue Johnson (b.1938) commemorates a titan of 20th century diplomacy: Ralph Johnson Bunche (1904–1971), the American educator, political scientist, and United Nations mediator.

For a lifetime of extraordinary achievement in the international arena, Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, the first African American to receive the award. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy awarded him the U.S. Medal of Freedom. As a U.N. mediator, secretary for special political affairs, and supervisor of peace-keeping missions in the Middle East and elsewhere, he played a key role in brokering U.N. sponsored peace agreements from 1949 to 1970.

Even before Bunche’s death, noted African American sculptor Johnson conceived of this towering 20-ton sculpture as a testament to Bunche’s dedication to world peace. Johnson’s father had been a high school classmate of Bunche in California, and the sculptor was greatly influenced by Bunche’s diplomatic efforts. In 1970, a sculpture by Johnson in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then the largest Cor-ten steel sculpture in the world, was dedicated in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Ralph Bunche present.

The Phelps-Stokes Fund, on whose board of trustees Bunche had served, led the campaign to raise more than $500,000 to erect the monument and re-landscape the surrounding park. A resolution of the U. S. Congress effective October 1, 1979 endorsed the project, and authorized a federal appropriation of $485,000 towards its completion. The full-sized obelisk was fabricated by Lippincott Foundry of North Haven, Connecticut.

On September 15, 1980 the sculpture was formally dedicated with a ceremony held at the U.N. General Assembly Hall followed by the unveiling of a plaque at the monument by Mrs. Ralph J. Bunche. Participants included U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, Vice President Walter Mondale, the Reverend Theodore Hesbrugh, president of the University of Notre Dame, Mayor Edward I. Koch, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Parks Commissioner Gordon A. Davis, among other dignitaries. Seth McCoy of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boys Choir of Harlem performed musical selections. The monument--a contemporary interpretation of an ancient art form--is a perpetual reminder of a great man and the international peace, which he sought to advance.

Peace Form One Details

  • Sculptor: Daniel La Rue Johnson
  • Description: Tall obelisk with variegated surface on a pentagonal base; plaque
  • Materials: Obelisk--stainless steel; Base--bronze; Paving--bluestone
  • Dimensions: Obelisk H: 50'; Base W: 21'4"
  • Cast: 1980
  • Dedicated: September 15, 1980
  • Fabricator: Lippincott, Inc., North Haven, CT
  • Donor: Phelps-Stokes Fund
  • Inscription: "I HAVE A NUMBER OF VERY STRONG BIASES. I HAVE A DEEP-SEATED BIAS AGAINST HATE AND INTOLERANCE; I HAVE A BIAS AGAINST RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY; I HAVE A BIAS AGAINST WAR, A BIAS FOR PEACE, I HAVE BIAS WHICH LEADS ME TO BE LIEVE IN THE ESSENTIAL GOODNESS OF MY FELLOW MAN, WHICH LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT NO PROBLEM OF HUMAN RELATIONS IS EVER INSOLUBLE. I HAVE A STRONG BIAS IN FAVOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND ITS ABILITY TO MAINTAIN A PEACEFUL WORLD."

    "PEACE, TO HAVE MEANING FOR / MANY WHO HAVE KNOWN ONLY SUFFERING / IN BOTH PEACE AND WAR / MUST BE TRANSLATED INTO BREAD OR RICE, / SHELTER, HEALTH, AND EDUCATION, / AS WELL AS FREEDOM AND HUMAN DIGNITY. / NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LECTURE, 1950 /
    RALPH JOHNSON BUNCHE / UNDER SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR / SPECIAL POLITICAL AFFAIRS / THE UNITED NATIONS / 1904 - 1971 / DANIEL LARUE JOHNSON, ARTIST /

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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