After viewing the film, spend one or more class sessions analyzing the merits of Ralph Bunche's life and work and discussing his rightful place in history. Develop criteria for determining whether or not a person should be considered a role model, a leader, an admirable person or a hero and apply the criteria to Ralph Bunche. This activity helps students become personally involved in making meaning of the film, clarifies their personal views on what makes an individual someone to be honored and gives them the opportunity to decide Ralph Bunche's place in history.


  1. Discuss Bunche's philosophy and accomplishments as presented in the film. Focus on evidence presented in the film, both pro and con, regarding the following personal characteristics:
  • his personal drive to achieve excellence in all pursuits,
  • his refusal to be limited by racism and prejudice,
  • his ability to deal with crises and attempt to help find solutions to perplexing problems,
  • his determination to seek equal rights for African Americans,
  • his willingness to take risks for a good cause,
  • his efforts to work within the system to bring about change and
  • his goal to advance the cause of peace and justice

  1. Personalize the issues and help the students clarify their personal views. To stimulate discussion, raise questions such as the following by projecting them on a screen or developing a worksheet to hand out to students.

  2. What are the characteristics of a person that you think of as role model, a leader, an admirable person or a hero?

    Who are your role models?

    Whom do you consider to be a leader?

    What individuals do you most admire?

    Whom do you consider to be your heroes?

    What are the two most important criteria that you used in deciding who is a role model, a leader, an admirable person or a hero?

  3. Ask the students to jot down answers to the questions.

  4. Divide the class into small groups of four or five students and ask group members to share their ideas and compile a list of answers agreed to by the whole group.

  5. Have each group report its answers to the class and as the groups report, record the answers for the class.

  6. Discuss the merits of the various answers by focusing on the last question: What are the 2 most important criteria for considering a person a role model, a leader, an admirable person or a hero? Decide on answers that the class can agree with.

  7. Ask students to apply the criteria they developed to Ralph Bunche's life and work, taking into consideration both the positive and negative comments in the film.

  8. In conclusion, ask each student to write a paragraph related to a summary question, such as: Do you consider Ralph Bunche a role model? A leader? An admirable person? A hero? Allow students to choose one of the four options or write in general about all four. After students complete the assignment, give them the opportunity to share their writing in small groups or with the class.



Use the film as a vehicle to introduce important people in United States and world history to students. Investigating the lives of individuals cited in the film will expand the students’ knowledge of the civil rights movement and the post-World War II world.


1. Select the individuals that you want to focus on in addition to Ralph Bunche. Or allow the class to choose a predetermined number of names from those cited in the film and those mentioned in the Glossary of People, Terms and Events, such as Count Folke Bernadotte, Stokely Carmichael, Arthur P. Davis, John P. Davis, E. Franklin Frazier, W. E. B. Du Bois, Trygve Lie, Dag Hammarskjold, Haile Selassie, Patrice Lumumba, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Gamel Abdul Nasser, Franklin Roosevelt, U Thant and Sir Brian Urquhart.

2. Divide the class into several small groups and assign each group 2 or 3 names to investigate.

3. Ask students to summarize what the film said about the individuals they have been assigned and conduct further research on each.

4. Use one or two class periods to discuss the students' findings on each, with a focus on what they accomplished and why they are important in United States and world history.

5 After the discussion ask each student to select the one person in the list that they found the most interesting and write 4 or 5 sentences about why this person is important.

6. Ask students to share their writing in small groups or with the whole class.



For Advanced Placement, honors or gifted and talented classes treat the film as a primary source to be analyzed and interpreted by students with minimal preparation. It might be sufficient for the teacher to review with the class terms from the glossary and some information from the timeline prior to the screening. But the point of this activity is NOT to give the students leading questions. The purpose of this activity is to give the students some practice in using their analysis and interpretative skills and to give them the opportunity to make meaning of a primary source on their own.


1. Ask students to view the film either on PBS or in the classroom. Explain that they will have to identify the main themes of the film and comment on the film's usefulness as a source of information. If you have a copy of the film to use in the classroom, it might be useful to stop the film at 3 or 4 transitional points in the story to briefly point out some of the issues as the film progresses.

2. After the film, give students time, either individually or in small groups, to identify its main themes, overriding ideas, biases and effectiveness in its treatment of Ralph Bunche.

3. When the students have reached their conclusions, conduct a class discussion to allow students the opportunity to present their ideas and to comment on and question each others' presentations. You might want to guide the discussion to some of the following questions, if the students don't address them on their own.

How should history view Bunche as we look back on his life and work from the 21st century?

Did Bunche's appreciation of "politics as the art of the possible" weigh too heavily on his approach and lead him to fail in achieving real justice for all people? Was he an honest broker or a tool of the industrialized West?

Did Bunche, as the most honored and widely respected African American of the day, fight as diligently as he should to advance equality and justice for African Americans?

How did Bunche's childhood and education shape his philosophy and worldview?

Does the filmmaker present a balanced treatment of Bunche? What was the filmmaker's attitude toward Bunche? Were there biases in the narration and the commentary by scholars?

4. Conclude with a consensus building activity that leads the students to craft three or four statements on the film's meaning and themes.



Ralph Bunche's life and career as an international diplomat brought him in contact with much of the globe, both within the US and abroad. As the story unfolds on film, names of various countries, cities and continents are mentioned. Because students will be motivated to locate these places, the film provides a good opportunity to explore place location as well as the changing boundaries of nations as the forces of war, politics, and culture impact on them across time.

The following activity -- taking 4 or 5 days -- will help students identify the location of places, understand how politics and culture change territorial boundaries and appreciate how historical maps illustrate the history of place.


1. After screening the film, discuss the contributions made by Ralph Bunche to United States and world history, especially those involving decolonization and the Middle East. If internet access is available, also go to the Ralph Bunche companion website at and look at the The Drive to Decolonize and The Peacemaker sections for additional place names. Develop a list of the places mentioned in the film and referred to on the Ralph Bunche website.

2. Ask the students to locate the places on the list on an up-to-date wall map or on maps in atlases, textbooks or online. The UN and the CIA websites will be especially useful. The students will discover that the names of some countries have changed and that some of the boundaries are different from what they were at the time.

3. Explain that politics, economics and culture change the political map of the world and point out that historical maps showing boundaries at different times are useful tools in gaining an understanding of this process.

4. Assign groups of students the task of studying specific areas of the world mentioned in the film or on the websites. Or they can chosse from a list that might include Europe, Russia, the Middle East, India, Korea, and Africa, as well as Cyprus, Kashmir, and Bahrain. Direct them to consult atlases, encyclopedias, other reference material and the Internet to find historical and contemporary maps that illustrate the changing boundaries in the area they have been assigned. Ask them to find out when and why the boundaries changed. Have them construct two or three maps of the area they are working on to compare political boundaries in the distant past, during the period/events covered in the film, and today.

5. Allow each group to post the maps they have created, and explain why the boundaries and/or names have changed.


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