Extracellular hemoglobin (Hb) has been recognized as a disease trigger in hemolytic conditions such as sickle cell disease, malaria, and blood transfusion. In vivo, many of the adverse effects of free Hb can be attenuated by the Hb scavenger acute-phase protein haptoglobin (Hp). The primary physiologic disturbances that can be caused by free Hb are found within the cardiovascular system and Hb-triggered oxidative toxicity toward the endothelium has been promoted as a potential mechanism. The molecular mechanisms of this toxicity as well as of the protective activities of Hp are not yet clear. Within this study, we systematically investigated the structural, biochemical, and cell biologic nature of Hb toxicity in an endothelial cell system under peroxidative stress. We identified two principal mechanisms of oxidative Hb toxicity that are mediated by globin degradation products and by modified lipoprotein species, respectively. The two damage pathways trigger diverse and discriminative inflammatory and cytotoxic responses. Hp provides structural stabilization of Hb and shields Hb's oxidative reactions with lipoproteins, providing dramatic protection against both pathways of toxicity. By these mechanisms, Hp shifts Hb's destructive pseudo-peroxidative reaction to a potential anti-oxidative function during peroxidative stress.