Hypertension remains a common public health challenge because of its prevalence and increase in co-morbid cardiovascular diseases. Black males have disproportionate pathophysiological consequences of hypertension compared with any other group in the United States. Alterations in arterial wall compliance and autonomic function often precede the onset of disease. Accordingly, our purpose was to investigate whether differences exist in arterial compliance and autonomic function between young, healthy African-American males without evidence of hypertension and age- and gender-matched non-African-American males. All procedures were carried out noninvasively following rest. Arterial compliance was calculated as the integrated area starting at the well-defined nadir of the incisura of the dicrotic notch to the end of diastole of the radial artery pulse wave. Power spectral analysis of heart rate and blood pressure variability provided distributions representative of parasympathetic and sympathetic modulations and sympathovagal balance. Baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) was calculated using the sequence method. Thirty-two African-American and twenty-nine non-African-American males were comparable in anthropometrics and negative family history of hypertension. t-Tests revealed lower arterial compliance (5.8 +/- 2.4 vs. 8.6 +/- 4.0 mmHg. s; P = 0.0017), parasympathetic modulation (8.9 +/- 1.1 vs. 9.7 +/- 1.1 ln ms2; P = 0.0063), and BRS (13.7 +/- 7.3 vs. 21.1 +/- 8.5 ms/mmHg; P = 0.0007) and higher sympathovagal balance (2.9 +/- 3.2 vs. 1.5 +/- 1.1; P = 0.03) in the African-American group. In summary, differences exist in arterial compliance and autonomic balance in African-American males. These alterations may be antecedent markers of disease and valuable in the detection of degenerative cardiovascular processes in individuals at risk.