Systemic hemodynamics (cardiac output, intraarterial pressure, total peripheral resistance) and intravascular volume (plasma volume and red cell mass) were measured in a population of 126 black and white patients, 51 with borderline hypertension and 75 with established essential hypertension. The findings were compared with those in 29 age-matched normotensive control subjects of both races. The white patients with established hypertension demonstrated a faster heart rate than the black patients (less than 0.05); this difference was more pronounced during upright tilt (p less than 0.02). No significant difference in cardiac index, total peripheral resistance, plasma volume or total blood volume was found between the two racial populations. Cardiac index correlated directly with plasma and total blood volume in black patients (r = 0.32, p less than 0.05) and white patients (r = 0.35, p less than 0.001) as well as in the whole study population (r = 0.36, p less than 0.001). The regression lines were similar in the two races. Further, a negative correlation was observed between the total peripheral resistance and plasma volume (r = -0.31, p less than 0.001) or total blood volume (r = -0.34, p less than 0.001), and it was similar in both races (blacks r = -0.48, p less than 0.01; whites r = -0.25, p less than 0.05). Age correlated significantly with total peripheral resistance in the white patients (r = 0.35, p less than 0.001) and in the total study population (r = 0.28, p less than 0.001). We conclude that, for every given age or level of arterial pressure, systemic hemodynamics are similar for the black and white patients with essential hypertension. These data, therefore, do not support the clinical impression that basic pathophysiology and hypertensive vascular disease are different in the black patient with essential hypertension.