The incidence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the US is rising at an alarming rate, with the largest increase among African-American populations. The key risk factors for kidney disease are hypertension and diabetes, which are both becoming more prevalent in the US, and particularly in African Americans. Although African Americans make up 12.6% of the US population, the incidence of diabetes-related ESRD is four times higher than for whites, and the prevalence of ESRD due to hypertension is twice that of white patients. Approximately 30 to 40% of all patients with diabetes will develop nephropathy and many will progress to ESRD, necessitating dialysis or kidney transplantation. Recent studies in patients with type 2 diabetes indicate a significant delay in progression or development of diabetic nephropathy following blockade of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system with the use of angiotensin receptor antagonists. Early intervention in patients with hypertension is necessary to prevent kidney damage, and data from the African American Study of Kidney Disease and Hypertension suggest that angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are effective in this population. Although African-American patients receiving hemodialysis appear to have increased survival compared with whites, racial factors and poor access to medical care contribute to the increased risk of kidney disease in minorities. A concerted effort is necessary to raise awareness in minority populations and provide strategies for prevention and early treatment thereby attenuating the increasing prevalence of kidney failure in these groups.