Eukaryotic RNA polymerase I (Pol I) transcribes ribosomal DNA and generates RNA for ribosome synthesis. Pol I accounts for the majority of cellular transcription activity and dysregulation of Pol I transcription leads to cancers and ribosomopathies. Despite extensive structural studies of yeast Pol I, structure of human Pol I remains unsolved. Here, we determined the structures of the human Pol I in the pre-translocation, post-translocation, and backtracked states at near-atomic resolution. The single-subunit peripheral stalk lacks contacts with the DNA-binding clamp and is more flexible than the two-subunit stalk in yeast Pol I. Compared to yeast Pol I, human Pol I possesses a more closed clamp, which makes more contacts with DNA and may support more efficient transcription in human cells. The Pol I structure in the post-cleavage backtracked state shows that the C-terminal zinc ribbon of RPA12 inserts into an open funnel and facilitates “dinucleotide cleavage” on mismatched DNA-RNA hybrid. Critical disease-associated mutations are mapped on Pol I regions that are involved in catalysis and complex organization. In summary, the structures provide new sights into human Pol I complex organization and efficient proofreading, consistent with requirement of efficient transcription of ribosomal DNA in human cells.