Aiken In the 1964 segment, Aiken is a player for Delaney High School, against whom Tommy Lewis plays hard.
Annie Annie is Lizzy’s cousin in the 1864 segment of the novel. She does not understand why Joshua and Lem ran away.
Bob Archer At the end of the 1964 segment, Bob Archer drives Tommy home after he spends the night in jail, and then helps guard the Lewis home with a shotgun.
Virginia Bates The wife of Robert Smalls Lewis and the mother of Tommy Lewis, Virginia appears in the 1964 segment. Initially she does not appreciate the offer Tommy receives to help integrate Johnson City State, but ultimately she supports her son in all that he does.
Muhammad Bilal When Muhammad Bilal is eleven years old and living in Africa, he is captured by slave traders, put on a slave ship, and sent to America. He does not know if his parents, Odebe and Saran, have knowledge about what happened to him. Although the trip is difficult, he survives and becomes a slave on the Live Oaks plantation in South Carolina. The property of the Lewis family, he helps to build the plantation.Muhammad becomes the founder of his own dynasty of African American Lewises. Dolly is his granddaughter. He lives to the age of 110.
Bill Bill is a slave on the Live Oaks plantation in the 1864 segment.
Bobby Joe In the 1964 segment, Tommy shares a jail cell with Bobby Joe. The latter is given a gun by a deputy and implies that he might use it on Tommy.
Mother Bradley Mother Bradley is the wife of Reverend Bradley in the 1930 segment.
Reverend Bradley In the 1930 segment, Reverend Bradley is the minister of Bethel Tabernacle, the church Luvenia attends.
Mr. Brooks In the 1994 segment, Mr. Brooks is the child who tells Malcolm where he can find Shep.
Deacon Brown In the 1930 segment, Deacon Brown serves at Free Will Baptist Church and helps with Sister Stovall’s funeral.
Dr. Calloway In the 1964 segment, Dr. Calloway is an African American doctor who treats Skeeter Jackson after he is beaten up.
James Caro James Caro is the head of the White Citizens’ Council in the 1964 segment.
Leonard Chase In the 1964 segment, Leonard Chase is a white man and former basketball star at Johnson City State. He is now married to Sally and is successful in the business operated by his wife’s family. Leonard understands that integration is coming, and he believes Tommy would be an ideal candidate to integrate his alma mater. Leonard offers Tommy a full scholarship and a chance to play for the basketball team, as long as Tommy stays out of trouble and away from civil rights marches. When Tommy shackles himself to the sheriff, Leonard withdraws his offer.
Sally Chase Sally Chase is the gossip-loving wife of Leonard Chase in the 1964 segment.
Norman Chesterfield In the 1930 segment, Norman Chesterfield is known for collecting numbers (a form of lottery gambling).When he shows up at Bethel Tabernacle he sticks out from the rest of the congregation.
Sister Clinton The light-skinned, plump Sister Clinton appears in the 1900 segment at the gathering following the consecration of the burial ground. She annoys Saran, but tells her that she saw David Turner with Mr. Foster.
Daoud In the 1994 segment, Daoud is a member of Malcolm’s band, String Theory.
Florenz Deets Florenz Deets is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Deets in the 1930 segment. She attends the University of Chicago and has what Luvenia describes as ‘‘a real vitality, a kind of bubbly air’’ about her. Florenz contributes to Luvenia’s losing her job with the Deets family by having her lie about being ill and pregnant, so that Florenz can drive her father‘s old car.
Mr. John Deets Mr. Deets is Luvenia’s employer in the 1930 segment. Luvenia works as a live-in servant for his family. Mr. Deets owns several delicatessens in the Chicago area. Because he values honesty in his employees, he fires Luvenia when she participates in Florenz‘s scheme to gain regular access to her father‘s second car. Mr. Deets refuses to give Luvenia her job back—a decision that compels Luvenia to start her own business.
Mrs. Deets Mrs. Deets is Luvenia‘s employer in the 1930 segment. Luvenia works as a live-in servant for the family. Luvenia asks Mrs. Deets to help her obtain a loan to attend the University of Chicago by guaranteeing her employment, but Mrs. Deets dismisses her ambitions by asking, ‘‘And why ever would you be interested in college?’’
Reverend Dexter Also known as Elder Dexter, he is the minister at the church the Lewis family attends in the 1900 segment.
Grandma Dolly The granddaughter of Muhammad Bilal, the mother of Joshua and Moses, and grandmother of Lem, Richard, and Yero, she is a slave on the Live Oaks plantation in 1864. She offers guidance and advice—not always wanted—to those around her.
Jennie Epps In the 1964 segment, teenager Jennie Epps is a friend of the Lewis family. She is ambitious and already has a scholarship offer to attend Meharry Medical College, where she can become a doctor. Jennie is interested in Tommy, but he finds her too aggressive. Nevertheless, Jennie ends up marrying Tommy and having their daughter, Linda, as well as becoming a doctor. Jennie also briefly appears in the 1994 segment at the Lewis family reunion at Curry Island.
Miss Etta In the 1930 segment, Miss Etta is a friend and godmother of Luvenia Lewis, Elijah, and Goldie. Miss Etta has a romantic interest in Mr. Harrison. She first befriended Elijah and Goldie when they moved to Chicago. When Elijah, Goldie, and Richard return to Curry Island and Glory Field, Miss Etta keeps an eye on Luvenia. Miss Etta hires Luvenia to do her hair, goes to church with her, supports her through the job-loss crisis, and throws a rent party for her, which allows Luvenia to start her own business.
Mr. Foster Mr. Foster runs the telegraph office in Johnson City and is a known alcoholic. Over the weekend depicted in the 1900 segment, he takes care of David Turner, a blind white boy. When he takes him fishing on his boat, he gets caught on Key Island with a broken leg. Foster is rescued by Sheriff Glover and Elijah Lewis, but dies shortly thereafter.
Neela Foster Neela is the wife of Joshua, whom she married on the sly because she was a slave on the Foster plantation. After Joshua runs away and the war ends, he and Neela live in Chicago.
George In the 1994 segment, George is a member of Malcolm’s band, String Theory. He plays drums.
Sheriff Glover In the 1900 segment, Sheriff Glover is the law enforcement official in Johnson City and Curry Island. He accompanies Elijah and Abby Lewis when they rescue David Turner and Mr. Foster. Glover takes credit for finding David, although Elijah really made the discovery, and says that Elijah will only get half of the $35 reward Hamlin Turner promised.
Sister Graham Sister Graham attends Bethel Tabernacle in the 1930 segment.
Dr. Grier In the 1964 segment, Dr. Grier is a white doctor who helps treat Skeeter Jackson after he is beaten. Mary Hardin In the 1900 segment, Mary is Abby’s girlfriend. They later marry and have a son, Robert Smalls Lewis. Her grandson is Tommy Lewis, the focal character of the 1964 segment. Mary briefly appears in the 1964 segment eating a meal with her son’s family.
Mr. Harrison In the 1930 segment, Mr. Harrison is Miss Etta’s love interest. Bernie Hatfield In the 1994 segment, Bernie is the truck driver who gives Malcolm and Shep a ride from Virginia to the outskirts of Johnson City.
Mister Joe Haynes In the 1864 segment, Mister Joe Haynes is the overseer at Live Oaks plantation, and he is not afraid to use force when needed to keep slaves in line. When he finds Lizzy cleaning up Lem at the tree, for example, he whips Lizzy until her clothes are shredded.
Henry Henry is a participant in the gathering after the burial ground is consecrated in the 1900 segment.
Hepplewhite In the 1964 segment, Hepplewhite is a big player on the Delaney High basketball team.
Katie Hornung In the 1930 segment, Katie Hornung is Florenz Deets’s friend from the University of Chicago. While she helps with Florenz’s car scheme, she feels bad when Luvenia loses her job with the Deets because of it. Katie finds another job for Luvenia with a family in Oak Park, but Luvenia turns it down to found her own business.
Grady Lee Jackson In the 1964 segment, Grady is an oysterman and the father of Skeeter. He is a quiet man but does not like African Americans.
Mrs. Jackson In the 1964 segment, Mrs. Jackson is the mother of Skeeter Jackson.
Skeeter Jackson A fifteen-year-old white friend of Tommy Lewis, Skeeter gets bitten by a rattlesnake early in the 1964 segment. Skeeter also participates in the march by blacks in Johnson City later in the segment. For his participation, Skeeter is beaten up by whites. It is implied that he might lose an eye, but he has no regrets.
Miss Julia Miss Julia is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Old Master Lewis. She has Lizzy come to the main house during the 1864 segment and tries to get information on Joshua and Lem’s whereabouts and on what is being said in the slave quarters.
Laurel In the 1930 segment, Laurel attends Bethel Tabernacle and sings in the church choir.
Abby Lewis Abby Lewis is the son of Yero Lewis and Lois Quincy, and the cousin of Elijah Lewis. In the 1900 segment, he and Elijah own a boat (the Pele Queen), and he believes they should be fishermen. Abby helps man their boat when Elijah and the sheriff find and save David Turner and Mr. Foster. Abby later marries Mary Hardin and has a son, Robert Smalls Lewis, also known as Planter. Abby’s grandson Tommy Lewis is the primary character in the 1964 segment.
Charles Lewis In the 1994 segment, Charles Lewis is the son of Richard Lewis (featured in the 1930 segment) and his wife Harriet Sheppard. He is also the brother of Fletcher Lewis. He is married to Celia Owens and the father of Malcolm Lewis. Charles attends the Lewis family reunion with his wife. He is happy when his son arrives.
Elijah Lewis Elijah Lewis is the son of Richard Lewis and Lizzy; in addition he is the cousin of Abby Lewis. As a fifteen-year-old in the 1900 segment, he helps work the land of Glory Field and owns a boat with his cousin. His grandmother, Saran, relies on him to tend to the consecrated burial ground behind the church on a weekly basis and to find David Turner when he is lost. Elijah is very responsible, reliable, and resourceful. When he learns the family needs to raise money to pay taxes on their land, he convinces Hamlin Turner to pay a $35 reward to locate David, then risks his life in a storm and saves him. Unfortunately, Elijah is forced to leave Curry when two white men, the Pettys, threaten him with violence after he refuses to lend them his boat. Elijah moves to Chicago, where he brings Goldie and marries her. They have two children, Richard and Luvenia. Although he spends much of his adult life in Chicago, he returns to Glory Field and tries to work the land again in 1930.
Fletcher Lewis In the 1994 segment, Fletcher Lewis is the son of Richard Lewis (from the 1930 segment) and his wife Harriet Sheppard. He is also the brother of Charles Lewis and the father of Sheppard G. Lewis.
Joshua Lewis The son of Dolly and brother of Moses, Joshua Lewis runs away from Live Oaks in the 1864 segment of Glory Field because he believes that the Foster family is going to sell his wife, Neela. Joshua runs away with his nephew Lem and, later, with Lizzy. Joshua joins the Union Army and later makes his home in Chicago with Neela.
Lem Lewis Lem is son of Moses and Saran and the brother of Richard and Yero. In the 1864 segment, he runs away from the plantation with his uncle Joshua. He is captured by Mister Joe Haynes and tied to a tree for hours so that he will give up information on Joshua’s location. After escaping Haynes, Lem joins the Union Army and he dies in combat.
Luvenia Lewis Introduced in the 1930 segment, Luvenia Lewis is the daughter of Elijah Lewis and Goldie Paige. In 1930, she is sixteen years old and living in Chicago. She has a job working as a live-in servant for the Deets family and also is a hairdresser on the side for Miss Etta and other women. Ambitious, Luvenia wants to attend the University of Chicago but cannot raise the funds or get a loan. A scheme of Florenz Deets results in Luvenia losing her job with the Deets. Luvenia seizes the opportunity to become an entrepreneur, first with a hair salon and later as the owner of a large cosmetics company targeting African Americans and Hispanics. By the 1994 segment, Luvenia is the matriarch of the Lewis family and helps organize turning the family land into a resort.
Malcolm Lewis Malcolm Lewis is the primary character in the 1994 segment, the son of Charles Lewis and Celia Owens. He is a good student and musician who plays saxophone and flute in his band, String Theory, to which he adds Jenn Che Po. His great aunt Luvenia Lewis entrusts him to get himself and his cousin Shep to the Lewis family reunion. After finding Shep and convincing him to go, Malcolm goes through a difficult yet character-building journey to reach Curry Island. Once there, he helps bring in the last harvest on Glory Field, mentored by Planter (Robert Smalls Lewis). While doing the back-breaking work, Malcolm learns much about his family and grows close to Planter. After the reunion, Malcolm’s band becomes successful, which makes him question his college plans. When Planter dies, he sends Malcolm the slave chains that were placed on Muhammad when he was brought to America.
Moses Lewis The leader of the slaves in the 1864 segment of Glory Field, he is the brother of Joshua, husband of Saran, and father of Lem, Richard, and Yero. When Lem is caught as a runaway, he asks Mister Joe Haynes to not hurt him much. By the 1900 segment, Moses is the patriarch of the African American Lewis family of former slaves. He is the moral compass of the family and community, and takes the lead on such acts as consecrating the burial ground behind the church.
Old Master Lewis Old Master Lewis, also known as Manigault Lewis, is the owner of the Live Oaks plantation in the 1864 section.
Richard Lewis In the 1864 and 1900 segments, Richard Lewis is the son of Moses Lewis and Saran, the brother of Lem and Yero Lewis, and the father of Elijah Lewis. He is married to Lizzy and helps support the family in South Carolina by working in pulp factories in Georgia. In the 1930 segment, Richard Lewis is the son of Elijah Lewis and Goldie Paige, as well as the elder brother of Luvenia Lewis. Unlike his sister, he is passive and goes along with the idea of returning to Curry Island with his parents.
Robert Smalls Lewis The son of Abby Lewis and Mary Hardin, Robert Smalls Lewis is also known as Planter (which was the name of a boat stolen by a slave, Robert Smalls, from the Confederate Army and given to the Union Army during the American Civil War). He marries Virginia Bates and has a son, Tommy, who is the main character of the 1964 segment. Robert is a leader in the black community and is aware of the institutionalized racism in the area. Still, he helps out others as needed. He drives Skeeter Jackson to the white hospital after he is bitten by a snake, for example. Unlike his wife, Robert believes that Tommy should take Chase’s scholarship offer and integrate Johnson City State. Later, in the 1994 segment, Robert mentors Malcolm during the last Lewis family harvest on Curry Island. He arranges for Malcolm to receive, after his own death, the slave chains that had shackled Muhammad and which Tommy used in his act of civil disobedience.
Sheppard G. Lewis In the 1994 segment, Sheppard G. Lewis, commonly known as Shep, is a sixteen-year-old who is living in a Harlem homeless shelter and has an addiction to crack cocaine. He tries to get out of going to the Lewis family reunion, despite Malcolm’s best efforts. After Malcolm gives him money for his plane ticket, Shep spends it on drugs and then tells Malcolm the cash has been stolen. Despite his problems, he agrees to take a bus with Malcolm to Curry Island. Because he gets sick on the bus, the driver leaves the cousins behind and they are forced to take a ride in the back of a truck driver’s rig. Shep makes it through the journey with the help of Malcolm. Shep gets sick again—this time taking in the last harvest. But Jennie Lewis helps him with his problems.
Thomas Lewis Known as Tommy, Thomas Lewis is the son of Robert Smalls Lewis and Virginia Bates and the grandson of Abby Lewis and Mary Hardin. In the 1964 segment, Tommy is the primary character, a star basketball player and a good student at Curry High School in Curry Island. Because of his success, Leonard Chase believes Tommy will be an ideal candidate to help integrate Johnson City State. Tommy is unsure if he wants to be among the first black students at the college and miss his senior year of high school, but he knows that he does not like Jim Crow laws that force him to use only ‘‘colored’’ drinking fountains. Tommy decides to take the scholarship and go to Johnson City State, and follows Chase’s admonishment to stay out of the march or any other trouble. But ultimately he believes he must stand up for what he comes to believe about civil rights and uses Muhammad’s slave chains to shackle himself to Sheriff Moser. Tommy spends the night in jail and loses his chance to attend Johnson City State. Although Tommy is interested in Mandy McKinnon in the 1964 segment, he eventually marries Jennie Epps, with whom he has a daughter, Linda. Tommy dies before his daughter is born, while serving in Vietnam.
Yero Lewis The son of Moses and Saran and brother of Lem and Richard, Yero is a slave on the Live Oaks plantation in the 1864 segment. Called ‘‘fun,’’ Yero ‘‘was also a little touched in the head.’’
Young Master Lewis Young Master Lewis, also known as Manigault Lewis, is the son of Old Master Lewis, the owner of the Live Oaks plantation, and his wife, Miss Ruth. He is also the brother of Miss Julia. Appearing in the 1864 segment, he is a soldier in the Confederate Army and dies in the American Civil War.
Aunt Lillian In the 1964 segment, Aunt Lillian visits her nephew Skeeter Jackson in the hospital after he is bitten by a snake.
Lizzy In the 1864 segment, thirteen-year-old Lizzy is the primary protagonist. She and her mother had been sold to Old Master Lewis when she was young, and her mother died six years ago. She is the informally adopted daughter of Moses and Saran. Because she is a favorite of Miss Julia, Miss Julia tries to use that relationship to find out where Joshua and Lem have run away by promising her a fun life in Johnson City. Instead, Lizzy follows her feelings for Lem and visits him at the tree, then runs away with Joshua and Lem. Like them, she goes North with Union troops. Lizzy eventually marries Lem’s brother Richard, gives birth to Elijah, and later lives in Georgia where her husband has found work.
Sister Lois Sister Lois is a participant in the gathering after the burial ground is consecrated in the 1900 segment.
Jimmy Manigault In the 1964 segment, Jimmy plays on the Curry High basketball team.
Miss Mary See Mary Hardin
Sister Maslan In the 1930 segment, Sister Maslan attends Bethel Tabernacle and, at fifty-seven, is the oldest singer in the choir.
Mandy McKinnon In the 1964 segment, Mandy is the daughter of Reverend McKinnon and is the love interest of the teenaged Tommy Lewis. Reverend McKinnon In the 1964 segment,
Reverend McKinnon is the father of Mandy, a community leader, and the organizer of an African American march in Johnson City.
Sheriff Moser In the 1964 segment, Sheriff Moser is the primary law enforcement official in Johnson City. At a press conference following demonstrations by both the White Citizens’ Council and African Americans, the sheriff tries to diffuse racial tensions, hoping to limit such activities in the future. Instead, Tommy uses Muhammad’s slave chains to shackle himself to Sheriff Moser.
Virgil Moser In the 1964 segment, Virgil works as a fruit seller and gives Tommy a peach on credit.
Mister Oakes Mister Oakes is the slave trader mentioned as a possible candidate to buy Lem in the 1864 segment.
Celia Owens In the 1994 segment, Celia is married to Charles Lewis and is the mother of Malcolm. She is very supportive of her son and his musical efforts.
Goldie Paige In the 1900 segment, Goldie Paige is the love interest of Elijah. She is younger than Elijah, and she promises not to marry anyone else when he is forced to leave Curry Island at the end of the segment. Later, Goldie goes to Chicago to marry him. There she gives birth to Richard and Luvenia.
Tom Pawley In the 1930 segment, Tom Pawley is a student at the University of Chicago. Florenz and Katie drop off Luvenia when they see Tom and offer him a ride.
Mr. Parrish Mr. Parrish lives in Luvenia’s building in the 1930 segment. He gives her the telegram in which she learns that she has been fired from her job with the Deets.
Frank Petty A white man in the 1900 segment. Frank does not like Elijah and Abby’s attitude about wanting more reward money for finding David Turner. He later demands to borrow their boat and when refused by Elijah, threatens during a drinking binge to physically harm him. Because of the threats made by Frank and his uncle J. D. Petty, Elijah leaves town and moves to Chicago.
J. D. Petty The uncle of Frank Petty in the 1900 segment. He is as racist as his nephew and is condescending when Elijah refuses to lend him his boat.
Planter See Robert Smalls Lewis
Jenn Che Po In the 1994 segment, Jenn Che Po tries out for Malcolm’s band, String Theory. She plays amplified cello and adds a new dimension to the band. Malcolm has a romantic interest in Jenn.
Precious Precious is the brown-and-white Pekingese lapdog owned by the Deets in the 1930 segment.
Miss Robbins In the 1964 segment, Miss Robbins is the manager of Clark’s Five-and-Dime, where Tommy works. Miss Robbins believes that races should be socially separate and decries any move toward integration.
Saran The wife of Moses Lewis and mother of Lem, Richard, and Yero, Saran is a slave on the Live Oaks plantation. Although white people call her Sara before the slaves are freed, she prefers her real name. She is greatly troubled by Lem and Joshua running away, but gives Lizzy advice on how to survive. After she gains her freedom, she helps maintain the land she and her husband inherited, which they call Glory Field. Although she struggles to find enough money to pay taxes, she cares more about finding David Turner, the young, blind white boy she cares for in the 1900 segment. (Saran had been the nanny of David’s father, Hamlin.) Her grandson Elijah finds the boy with the help of another grandson, Abby. Elijah gives Saran the money for taxes from the reward he earns, but she returns him half to leave when he is threatened with violence by white men in town. Such incidents trouble her, but she relies on her faith.
Jed Sasser In the 1964 segment, Jed Sasser is an employee at Clark’s Five-and-Dime, where Tommy works. Jed believes that races should be socially separate and that black civil rights leaders are not what they seem. He does not believe in blacks marching or moving toward integration.
Deepak Singh In the 1994 segment, Deepak is a member of Malcolm’s band, String Theory. He plays sitar.
Coach Smith Coach Smith coaches the Curry High School basketball team in the 1964 segment.
Macon Smith A black fisherman in the area around Curry Island, Smith declines to use his boat in the storm for the $10 reward to find David Turner.
Johnnie Mae Stokes In the 1930 segment, Johnnie Mae Stokes is a member of the Bethel Tabernacle and sings in the church choir.
Sister Stovall A deceased acquaintance of Miss Etta. Luvenia goes to her funeral in the 1930 segment. Sister Stovall’s casket is broken.
Sukey Sukey is the mule Elijah uses to work the land in the 1900 segment.
David Turner David Turner is the young blind son of Hamlin Turner and his deceased wife. In the 1900 segment, Saran has a job taking care of him. One weekend that she has off, David is cared for by Mr. Foster, who gets stranded with him on a small island during a major storm. He is rescued by Elijah Lewis and others.
Hamlin Turner Hamlin Turner is the father of David Turner. Prosperous because he inherited a hotel in Wraggstown, he employs Saran, who had once been his nanny, to take care of his son. Hamlin is distraught when Mr. Foster, the weekend caregiver he hired, goes missing with his son. Hamlin agrees to pay Elijah and Abby Lewis $35 to find his son. Although Sheriff Glover tries to undermine them, Hamlin pays Elijah the full amount.
Mary Turner In the 1930 segment, Mary Turner attends Bethel Tabernacle and sings in the church choir.
Wilson In the 1964 segment, Wilson plays center on the Curry High School basketball team.
Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010