James S. Jackson, Trailblazer in Research on Race and Health (1944-2020)

September 25, 2020

Photo of James Jackson

James S. Jackson, a prominent social psychologist known for his path-breaking research on race, culture, and health, passed away at the age of 76 on September 1 after battling pancreatic cancer the past few years. With him at his side were his wife Toni Antonucci, Elizabeth M. Douvan Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Research Professor, Survey Research Center, and daughters Ariana and Kendra. Jackson was the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan and Research Professor Emeritus at the Research Center for Group Dynamics. He served as the Director of the Institute for Social Research from 2005 to 2015, where he founded (in 1975) and directed the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA).

Jackson created the National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA) in 1977, the first national cross-sectional survey of Black Americans, to understand the diversity within the Black community. Before the development of the NSBA, it was not common for this type of research to be non-racially comparative. His academic contributions have earned him numerous distinctions, including election to the National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also served on the National Science Board where he was a great advocate for the behavioral and brain sciences.

Colleagues and students remember Jackson as a brilliant scholar with a keen understanding of interdisciplinary connections, whose warmth, sense of humor, and generosity as a mentor and colleague were reknowned and considered legendary.  He had a huge impact on scores of younger social scientists. Robert Taylor, current director of the PRBA, a student and colleague of Jackson’s, said “There’s a lot of people who would have left their doctoral programs if they hadn’t started working with James.”

The family has requested that donations in memory of James be made to the James S. Jackson Emerging Scholars Fund.

For more on James Jackson’s impact: