Emotional distress as assessed by the self-report Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL) was examined in a sample of 607 urban black high school students aged 15–18. These adolescents reported high distress primarily about feelings of disadvantage, volatile anger, interpersonal sensitivity and loneliness. Females were significantly more likely than males to indicate emotional distress, although several of the leading distress items were endorsed equally by both groups. Male and female scores across the HSCL factors differed in degree rather than form. The great majority of these adolescents did not report significant emotional distress. These data provide a base from a non-clinical sample for comparison with other adolescent groups where emotional distress may play a role.