A sample of adult Black policyholders of the nation's largest Black-owned life insurance company was surveyed in 1986 to add to limited data on smoking and quitting patterns among Black Americans, and to provide direction for cessation initiatives targeted to Black smokers. Forty per cent of 2,958 age-eligible policyholders for whom current addresses were available returned a completed questionnaire. Population estimates for smoking status agree closely with national estimates for Blacks age 21-60 years: 50 per cent never-smokers; 36 per cent current smokers; 14 per cent ex-smokers. Current and ex-smokers reported a modal low-rate/high nicotine menthol smoking pattern. Current smokers reported a mean of 3.8 serious quit attempts, a strong desire and intention to quit smoking, and limited past use of effective quit smoking treatments and self-help resources. Correlates of motivation to quit smoking were similar to those found among smokers in the general population, including smoking-related illnesses and medical advice to quit smoking, previous quit attempts, beliefs in smoking-related health harms/quitting benefits, and expected social support for quitting. Methodological limitations and implications for the design of needed Black-focused quit smoking initiatives are discussed.