Racial oppression and conflict have remained a major concern of the USA throughout its history. Not surprisingly, then, ‘race relations’– as it is euphemistically termed – has been a focus of American social science since its origins in the late nineteenth century. This focus, however, has been uneven over the past century – often dim and reflecting the racist norms of the times but on occasion intense and pointing the way for reform. This chapter will briefly outline this uneven history of reflection and reform throughout the twentieth century with special attention to how the emerging discipline of American social psychology fits into this larger social scientific scene.