Unlike other complex diseases, the study of autism has been almost exclusively limited to Caucasian families. This study represents a first effort to examine clinical and phenotypic findings in individuals with autism from African American families. Drawing from an ongoing genetic study of autism we compared African American (N = 46, mean age = 118 months) and Caucasian (N = 298, mean age = 105 months) groups on autism symptoms and developmental language symptoms. The African American group showed greater delays in language but did not differ from the Caucasian group on core autism symptoms. These findings, while suggestive of a more severe phenotype, may reflect an ascertainment bias. Nonetheless, we believe that more studies of racial-ethnic groups should be conducted with several goals in mind including strengthening recruiting strategies to include more ethnic-racial groups and more thoughtful evaluation of phenotypic traits. Such considerations will aid greatly in the search for genetic variants in autism. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.