This study describes the severity, alcohol consumption, consequences, readiness to change, and coping behaviors of African-American and white primary care patients enrolled in a trial of brief interventions for problem drinking. In multivariate analysis, unemployment but not race was associated with clinical indicators of alcohol problems. African-Americans reported no difference in alcohol consumption and similar quality of life scores. African-American race and unemployment were both associated with increased identification and resolution of alcohol problems. There was no difference in readiness to change, but African-Americans reported more problems related to alcohol and greater use of coping behaviors to avoid drinking. African-Americans may be better equipped to manage drinking problems when they do occur due to increased familiarity with coping mechanisms.