Jefferson A twenty-one-year-old uneducated black field worker condemned to die after being innocently involved in an armed robbery and shooting.
Alcee Gropé The white storekeeper killed during the attempted robbery.
Brother and Bear Two young black men killed while attempting to rob Alcee Gropé's store.
Miss Emma (Emma Glenn) Jefferson's godmother; she is determined that Jefferson will die with dignity.
Grant Wiggins The narrator. A cynical, disillusioned teacher called upon to instill a sense of pride and self-worth in Jefferson before his execution.
Tante Lou Grant's aunt and Miss Emma's best friend.
Vivian Baptiste Grant Wiggins' Creole (mixed heritage of black and French or Spanish ancestry) girlfriend.
Peggy A fellow teacher; Vivian's friend.
Miss Eloise Bouie A friend of Miss Emma and Tante Lou.
Estelle Jefferson's cousin; one of Grant's students.
Henri Pichot The owner of the plantation that once employed Miss Emma and Tante Lou as cook and housekeeper.
Inez Lane Henri Pichot's maid. Inez has replaced Miss Emma in Pichot's kitchen.
Louis Rougon A friend of Henri Pichot. Rougon's family owns a bank in St. Adrienne.
Sam Guidry Sheriff of Bayonne County; Henri Pichot's brother-in-law.
Edna Guidry Sam's wife and Henri Pichot's sister.
Joe and Thelma Claiborne Owners of the Rainbow Club, Grant and Vivian's favorite hangout.
Shirley A waitress at the Rainbow Club.
Irene Cole Grant's assistant/student teacher.
Matthew Antoine Grant's former teacher, known in the black community as "the big mulatto from Poulaya."
Mr. Farrell Jarreau Henri Pichot's yardman, handyman, and messenger.
Rev. Mose Ambrose Pastor of the plantation church where Grant Wiggins teaches during the week.
Dr. Joseph Morgan The white school superintendent who reinforces the white supremacy myth by being more interested in the students' teeth and hygiene than in their access to learning materials.
Paul Bonin The young deputy at the county jail who befriends Grant and witnesses Jefferson's execution.
Henry Martin One of Jefferson's fellow inmates.
Henry Louis and Amos Thomas The two old men who deliver the first load of wood to Grant's school, marking the onset of winter.
Dr. Sid Gilroy The white doctor whom Sheriff Guidry calls on to visit Miss Emma.
"Gruesome Gerty" The portable electric chair brought into Bayonne from the Angola State Penitentiary for Jefferson's execution.