Few studies have examined the association of race with change in cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease (AD). We studied the rate of decline in global and specific measures of cognitive function in a cohort of 410 older African-Americans and whites with clinically diagnosed AD. Persons were examined annually for an average of 3.5 years, and follow-up participation among survivors exceeded 90%. In mixed-effects models that controlled for age, gender, education, and premorbid reading activity, African-Americans scored lower than whites at baseline on a composite measure of global cognition and on specific measures of visuoconstruction and naming. However, they experienced less rapid decline in episodic memory (p < 0.01), with similar but not quite significant effects for global cognition (p = 0.06), perceptual speed (p = 0.07) and naming (p = 0.08). The results suggest that the rate of cognitive decline in AD is slower in African-Americans compared with whites, particularly for episodic memory.