Joe Christmas The central character, who in southern terminology, is a "white Negro" because he possesses a small amount of Negro blood.
Joanna Burden An advocate for the Negro race who has lived in Jefferson as an outcast all her life. She befriends Joe and later becomes his mistress.
Lena Grove A young girl who has walked from Alabama searching for the father of her unborn child. She is in her ninth month of pregnancy.
Byron Bunch An employee in the local planing mill who reveals the whereabouts of Lena's seducer and then feels obliged to help her.
Reverend Gail Hightower A minister who lives so far in the past that he can no longer enter into the stream of life in the modern world.
Bobbie Allen A prostitute who befriends Joe when he is about eighteen even though she knew he was part Negro.
Simon McEachern A righteous farmer who adopts Joe and then brutally beats him whenever Joe shows an independent spirit.
Mrs. McEachern Joe's foster mother who tries to side with Joe, but is rejected by him.
Euphues ("Uncle Doc") Hines Joe's maternal grandfather who places Joe in an orphanage and abandons him because he thinks Joe has some Negro blood. Later he demands Joe's death when he hears that Joe is captured.
Joe Brown, alias Lucas Burch The man who fathered Lena's child and then left her. When he arrives in Jefferson, he changes his name from Lucas Burch to Joe Brown and lives in the cabin with Joe Christmas.
Percy Grimm The brutal and self-righteous citizen who feels the need to mutilate Joe's body after he has already shot Joe.
Gavin Stevens The District Attorney, who offers an explanation for Joe's behavior.
The Dietitian The dietitian (Miss Atkins) is important because Joe's encounter with her affected his entire outlook on women.
Armstid A farmer who takes Lena Grove home to stay overnight.
Martha Armstid Armstid's self-reliant wife who donates her meager savings to help Lena Grove.