Whitechapel is the protagonist of The Longest Memory, and he is the oldest and most respected of the slaves on Mr. Whitechapel's planation. Whitechapel is married to Cook, another slave, and raises her half-black son, Chapel, who is conceived as a product of Cook's rape by Sanders Senior, the plantation's overseer. Whitechapel is trusted and respected at the plantation. He is a hard worker and does what he is asked to do by Mr. Whitechapel. He has come to accept his position as a slave and encourages other slaves to do the same, appeasing Mr. Whitechapel in self-preservation.
Mr. Whitechapel is the owner of the plantation. He identifies as a Christian and treats his slaves as he believes a Christian should. He believes that he is a better master than the other slave owners because he does not treat his slaves as cruelly, even though he strictly forbids learning and literacy.
Lydia is Mr. Whitechapel's daughter. She teaches Whitechapel's son, Chapel, to read against her father's wishes. She writes anonymous letters to the newspaper about how unjust slavery is. Lydia also falls in love with Chapel and plans to travel North with him, as slavery is illegal there and they hope to elope.
Chapel is son of Cook, Whitechapel's wife, who was raped, but he raises him as his own. Chapel does not follow Whitechapel's view of doing what he is told. His inability to accept slavery and his love for Mr. Whitechapel's daughter, Lydia, cause his death.
Sanders Senior, the previous overseer of he plantation, is the illegitimate father of Chapel. He raped Chapel's mother, Cook, who was Whitechapel's wife and fellow slave. He enjoys inflicting pain on the slaves, a trait that his son, Sanders Junior, inherits from him.
Sanders Junior, the current overseer, is the son of Sanders Senior. He beats Chapel for trying to escape to the North. Mr. Whitechapel is not around to oversee the beating, which is supposed to be non-lethal, and Chapel dies as a result of Sanders Junior's brutality. Sanders Junior discovers that the boy he killed, Chapel, is his half-brother and begins to feel guilty. He eventually feels sorry for the slaves.
The Editor of The Virginian
The editor of the paper is racist, and he believes that slaves are subhuman and valuable for economic purposes. He believes slaves should be educated, but not because he feels sorry for them. All of his views are solely economic.
She remembers how Whitechapel took care of her when she was little and mourns the fact that his son has been killed.
Whitechapel believes that his grandson blames him for Chapel's death.
Other Plantation Owners
Other slave-masters make fun of Mr. Whitechapel's belief that slaves should be treated without excessive brutality.
Mr. Whitechapel's son returns from business in the North and tells his sister about the fact that slavery is illegal there. He does not like the fact that black men and white women can be seen together in the North. Thomas does not like relationships between black men and white women.
The deputy is in charge when Mr. Whitechapel is absent. He sneaks off to visit his wife the day that Chapel is killed, so there is no one to make sure that Mr. Whitechapel's wishes are followed, which results in Chapel's death by the brutal Sanders Junior.
Caroline is Sanders Senior's deceased wife. She is remembered as a kind and gentle woman.