James S. Jackson passed away peacefully at home on September 1, 2020, with his wife, Toni Antonucci, and daughters Ariana and Kendra by his side. He was 76 years old. Born in 1944 in Detroit and raised in Inkster, Professor Jackson was the first in his family to go to college. He received his B.S. (1966) degree from Michigan State University, his M.A. (1970) degree from the University of Toledo, and his Ph.D. (1972) degree from Wayne State University. Professor Jackson joined the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor in 1971, was promoted to associate professor in 1977, and professor in 1986.
Professor Jackson was a giant in social psychology, whose work and broad influence will endure for generations to come. He was the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology Emeritus in the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Research Professor Emeritus, Research Center for Group Dynamics, ISR. He founded the Program for Research on Black Americans in 1976 which focused on issues of racial and ethnic influences on life course development, attitude change, reciprocity, social support and coping and health among blacks in the Diaspora. He was past director of the Institute for Social Research and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, and past national president of the Black Students Psychological Association and Association of Black Psychologists. He was awarded the University of Michigan’s inaugural Distinguished Diversity Scholar Career Award in 2017, an award that now bears his name: The James S. Jackson Distinguished Career Award for Diversity Scholarship. Professor Jackson received numerous university, national and international awards. These include the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology (2019) and the Distinguished Service to Psychological Science Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, a member of the National Science Board (appointed by President Barack Obama), and a Fellow in several other academic societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Professor Jackson directed the most extensive social, political behavior and mental and physical health surveys on African American and Black Caribbean populations ever conducted: “The National Survey of American Life” and “The Family Survey across Generations and Nations” as well as the National Science Foundation- and Carnegie Corporation-supported “National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics.” Recent publications include “African Americans in a Diversifying Nation” and “Age Cohort, Ancestry and Immigration Status Influences on Family Relations and Psychological Well-being among Three-generation Caribbean Black Families.” Among many other service contributions, he served on several boards for the National Research Council and the National Academies of Science and is a founding member of the Aging Society Research Network of the MacArthur Foundation. His research program led to over 17 books and over 180 research articles that have influenced the research direction and thinking of entire fields. Another important legacy is Professor Jackson’s contribution to the mentorship and career development of scores of young scholars of color from many social science and public health disciplines.
In the words of Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Robert Sellers: "James Jackson is probably the most important researcher on the life experiences of African Americans in the past 100 years. His work transcends the traditional fields of psychology, sociology, political science and public health to provide a rich picture of the strengths, challenges, and functioning that characterizes the breadth of experiences of the African American community. In doing so, James' work has been foundational to our understanding of the social determinants of health and well-being in our country.”
Donations can be made online in James’ memory to the James S Jackson Emerging Scholars Fund.
The New York Times gave a tribute to Professor Jackson at this link.
Professor Jackson’s obituary can be found at this link.