A double-blind, positively controlled, forced dose titration study comparing the efficacy and safety of atenolol, captopril, and verapamil sustained release as single agents in the treatment of black patients with mild to moderate hypertension (diastolic blood pressure, 95 to 114 mm Hg) was conducted. A total of 394 patients were randomized to one of the three therapies. Mean blood pressures during a 2- to 4-week placebo treatment period (baseline) ranged from 100.4 to 100.7 mm Hg diastolic and 151.7 to 152.5 mm Hg systolic for the three groups. Of the patients, 355 (of whom 345 had assessable data) completed the first treatment period, which consisted of therapy with either 50 mg/d of atenolol, 25 mg every 12 hours of captopril, or 240 mg/d of verapamil sustained release. During the second 4-week treatment period, which 319 patients completed (307 assessable), half of the patients had their antihypertensive medication increased and the other half continued the same dose. Goal blood pressure was defined as a supine diastolic pressure of less than 90 mm Hg or a 10-mm Hg or greater drop in supine diastolic blood pressure from pretreatment levels. Atenolol, captopril, and verapamil sustained release therapy was associated with goal blood pressure achievement during the first treatment period 55.1%, 43.8%, and 65.2% of the time, respectively, and during the second treatment period 59.6%, 57.1%, and 73.0% of the time. Side effects were minimal and comparable for all three drugs.