African Americans are at increased risk for cancer and represent an important target population for programs such as Healthy People 2000, the Cancer Information Service (CIS), and the 5 a Day for Better Health Initiative. Yet, awareness of such programs among rural blacks is unknown. This study assessed awareness of these programs and determined related knowledge and beliefs among rural African Americans. It was undertaken as part of the baseline survey for the Black Churches United for Better Health project, a National Cancer Institute-funded initiative. A minority of respondents (n=3737) demonstrated name recognition of Healthy People 2000 (23.4%), the CIS (42.4%), and the 5 a Day Program (40.7%). Far fewer (7.4%) were able to correctly identify the recommended daily number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Reported family history of cancer was associated with a greater tendency believe that eating more fruits and vegetables can prevent disease. These findings underscore the need for efforts to reach the rural black community with culturally sensitive and stage appropriate cancer prevention messages. Knowledge of family history of cancer may play an important role in targeting subgroups and delivering effective cancer prevention messages.