Ischemic heart disease (IHD) risk factors and 20-year mortality rates were studied in middle-aged Evans County black males. We hypothesized, a priori, that blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking would be predictive of mortality in black males; that black-white differences in mortality would be due to differences in risk factor levels and not risk functions per se; and that social status would be associated with risk factor levels and would be a predictor of mortality. Multivariate analyses of cumulative risk of dying and time to death suggest that the major IHD risk factors are predictors of all-cause and IHD mortality in black males. Black-white differences in risk functions, specifically for cholesterol, were explained by social status: black males and lower social status white males had similar risk functions, different from those of higher social status white males. Black males and lower social status white males had almost identical survival curves, each less favorable than those of higher social status white males.