This study assessed the unique effects of racial identity and self-esteem on 259 African American adolescents’ depressive and anxiety symptoms as they transitioned from the 7th to 8th grades (ages 12–14). Racial identity and self-esteem were strongly correlated with each other for males but not for females. For both males and females, an increase in racial identity over the 1 year was associated with a decrease in the prevalence of depressive symptoms over the same period, even with self-esteem controlled. It was concluded that racial identity may be as important as self-esteem to the mental health of African American adolescents, and it explains variance in their mental health not associated with feelings of oneself as an individual.