Drawing from the life course perspective, racial disparities in hospitalization are considered in light of a chain of risk. We ask whether race influences admission to, length of stay in, and mortality following hospitalization. Analyses address these questions with data from a national longitudinal sample of adults to assess racial disparities in the hospitalization experience (n = 6,833). Survey data were merged with hospital records abstracted over 20 years of observation. Multivariate analyses revealed that there were no racial differences in admission, but that black adults generally had longer stays. When isolating each stay prospectively, black adults had longer stays during the first, third, and fourth hospitalizations. Post-hospital mortality after the first stay was also higher for black adults than for their white counterparts, even after controlling for morbidity and status resources. The findings suggest that the racial disparities in hospital length of stay and mortality are explained by the cumulative effects of social and health inequalities over the life course.