Raphael S. Ezekiel, Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Michigan, passed away April 4, 2020 at the age of 88.


Professor Ezekiel received his B.A. (1950) and M.A. degrees from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree in Social Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955 and conducted research at Georgetown University (1955-1960) and the University of California at Berkeley (1962-1964) prior to joining the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor of psychology in 1964. He was promoted to associate professor in 1970.


Foundational to his life-long approach to research and to teaching were Professor Ezekiel’s experiences conducting doctoral research in Ghana with the first group of Peace Corps volunteers. His subsequent field research in community settings, and his theoretical work on intergroup relations inspired his devotion and his approach to undergraduate education, which went beyond traditional pedagogical methods by motivating students to observe groups in action and interview members of real groups in society. Over the years, students viewed his courses as exceptional opportunities to use academic knowledge to understand the actual worlds they live in as students and the worlds they expect to inherit as college graduates.


Professor Ezekiel spent his career researching racism and the causes of violence. For his first book, Voices From the Corner: Poverty and Racism in the Inner City (1984), he spent time with people in a Detroit community who shared with him their strengths and struggles. He also researched ultra-right groups by interviewing leaders and followers and observing national rallies and community demonstrations. This research led to The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansman (1996). It explains how the most committed, the most disadvantaged, and the most alienated talk about themselves and others in an often divided society.


Professor Ezekiel taught in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts for thirty-one years, prior to retiring in May 1995. After retirement, he moved to Arlington, MA and worked for years in a senior research position at the Harvard School of Public Health, making several trips to Israel and Palestine to interview peace and justice activists on both sides of the conflict. His work focused on understanding what motivates individuals to swim against the prevailing currents and to take personal political stands. He enjoyed singing, nature and wildlife, travel, and time with his family, friends, and with his beloved Chocolate Lab, Sally.


He is survived by his brother Joseph; longtime companion, Kathy Modigliani; his children Daniel, Margalete, and Joshua; and stepchildren Nathan Horowitz, Julia and Leah Modigliani. He also leaves behind 5 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren to cherish his memory.