African American women in the U.S. have the highest breast cancer mortality though not the highest breast cancer incidence. This high mortality rate has been attributed in part to discrepancies in screening between African American and White women. Although this gap in mammography utilization is closing, little is known about what has been and is driving the screening practices of African American women, in particular age at first mammogram. This study examined the rates of breast cancer screening in an African American community sample from eight churches in greater Baltimore, Maryland and investigated the association between various factors and age at first mammogram. Participants were 213 women ages 22-89 years. About 77% of women had ever had a mammogram. Over 40% had their first mammogram before age 40. Women who first screened before age 40 had greater odds than women who had never screened of being knowledgeable about screening guidelines, of having received a physician recommendation to screen, and of having three or more female relatives who had been screened. Women who first screened at or after age 40 were more likely to have stronger religious beliefs of health than women who never had screened. These findings suggest the importance of reinforcing factors in screening behavior for African American women and have implications for physician training and public health education about breast cancer screening. A better understanding of African American women's mammography practice including early screening is needed to reduce this population's disproportionate breast cancer mortality risk.