African Americans experience poorer diabetes outcomes than non-Hispanic Whites. Few clinical trials of diabetes self-management interventions specifically target African Americans, perhaps due to well-documented barriers to recruitment in this population. This paper describes strategies used to successfully recruit 211 low-income African Americans from community clinics of a large, urban public hospital system to a randomized clinical trial of an 18-month diabetes self-management intervention. Diabetes-related physiological, psychosocial, and behavioral characteristics of the sample are reported. The sample was 77% female, mean age = 55, mean A1C = 8.5%, 39% low health literacy, 28.4% moderate/severe depression, and 48.3% low adherence. Participants ate a high-fat diet with low vegetable consumption. Relative to males, females had higher BMI, depression, and stress, and better glycemic control, less physical activity, and less alcohol consumption. Males consumed more daily calories, but females consumed a greater proportion of carbohydrates. Gender-specific diabetes self-management strategies may be warranted in this population.