Meridian Henry, a minister in a small Southern town. Henry, a civil rights activist, had urged his fellow African Americans to adopt a nonviolent posture in response to threats and violence committed against them by whites resisting changes in the status quo. He had placed his faith in God and a liberal white friend to influence others and effect social change. The racially motivated killing of his son causes Meridian to reevaluate his nonaggressive strategy for civil rights. He begins to question God’s allowance of the suffering of African Americans and has doubts concerning his white friend’s willingness to eliminate the privileged position of whites.
Richard Henry, Meridian’s murdered son. Seen in flashback sequences, he is a musician whose attempt to find fame in New York ended bitterly with his incarceration for heroin addiction. In his twenties, he returned to his hometown still resentful of his father’s inaction concerning the suspicious death of Richard’s mother. To whites, Richard is abrasive, threatening, and too boastful of his sexual prowess, especially in regard to white women. To blacks, he is a proud, bold young man who refuses to suffer quietly the indignities experienced by African Americans in a racist society.
Lyle Britten, a store owner suspected of murdering Richard. He is a lower-class, uneducated white man who speaks crudely. A family man, he has aspirations of expanding his...
(The entire section is 627 words.)