Introduction: Sepsis is a major public health problem. Prior studies using hospital-based data describe higher rates of sepsis among black than whites participants. We sought to characterize racial differences in incident sepsis in a large cohort of adult community-dwelling adults. Methods: We analyzed data on 29,690 participants from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) cohort. We determined the associations between race and first-infection and first-sepsis events, adjusted for participant sociodemographics, health behaviors, chronic medical conditions and biomarkers. We also determined the association between race and first-sepsis events limited to first-infection events. We contrasted participant characteristics and hospital course between black and white sepsis hospitalizations. Results: Among eligible REGARDS participants there were 12,216 (41.1 %) black and 17,474 (58.9 %) white participants. There were 2,600 first-infection events; the incidence of first-infection events was lower for black participants than for white participants (12.10 vs. 15.76 per 1,000 person-years; adjusted HR 0.65; 95 % CI, 0.59-0.71). There were 1,526 first-sepsis events; the incidence of first-sepsis events was lower for black participants than for white participants (6.93 vs. 9.10 per 1,000 person-years, adjusted HR 0.64; 95 % CI, 0.57-0.72). When limited to first-infection events, the odds of sepsis were similar between black and white participants (adjusted OR 1.01; 95 % CI, 0.84-1.21). Among first-sepsis events, black participants were more likely to be diagnosed with severe sepsis (76.9 % vs. 71.5 %). Conclusion: In the REGARDS cohort, black participants were less likely than white participants to experience infection and sepsis events. Further efforts should focus on elucidating the underlying reasons for these observations, which are in contrast to existing literature.