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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 844

Frank Charles
Frank is Minnie’s thirty-six-year-old domineering and abusive husband. He is a man of mixed heritage whose mother was a slave owned by his father. Because of his light skin, he is often mistaken for a white man. Frank romanticizes his parents’ relationship, claiming that they were in love and that his father wanted to marry his mother, despite the fact that he would not free her. Frank and Minnie live in London, enjoying a wealthy lifestyle because of the money Frank receives from his father. When his father dies, however, the family disowns him, leaving him penniless and desperate. It is this desperation that drives him to the sell Minnie’s portion of the homestead. His intentions are discovered by the others, however, and he is killed.

Frank has a superior attitude and looks down on Minnie’s family. He regards himself as sophisticated and elite, and he has no respect for the difficult life on the western plains. His duplicity is evident in the way he speaks with false sweetness in the presence of Minnie’s family and then beats Minnie behind closed doors.

Minnie Dove Charles
Minnie turns twenty-one years old during the play and is married to Frank, who is fifteen years her senior. While Minnie loves her family very much, she is not strong enough to stand up to her abusive husband. As a result, she rarely sees her family because she lives in London, where she is not happy. Minnie left Memphis with Fannie and Sophie so that they could claim free land in Kansas and make a new life together. When she attends a conservatory (she has a beautiful voice), she meets Frank.

During the course of the play, Minnie reveals that she is pregnant, and when Frank beats her, she is most afraid for her child. When Frank is killed, Minnie does not cry but merely takes the deed to her land from his pocket.

Fannie Dove
Fannie is thirty-two years old and unmarried. She lives with Sophie and Miss Leah outside the allblack town of Nicodemus, Kansas. She and the other women run a wheat farm and have achieved self-sufficiency.

Fannie enjoys the outdoors and is especially fond of flowers. Although she and Wil are very close to each other, it is not until the end of the play that they make plans to wed. In family matters, Fannie is a peacemaker. She believes in love and family, and she encourages Minnie to work out her marital problems with Frank. Still, she realizes that Frank must be stopped, so she participates in the plot to kill him.

Miss Leah
Miss Leah is a seventy-three-year-old woman who spent most of her life in slavery. She gave birth to ten children while she was a slave, and she lost them all to the trade. After she became free, she and her husband had five more children together, but they were all lost to illness. When her husband died, she buried him and headed west in hope of a better life. When her new life is threatened by Frank, she bakes him a poisoned apple pie and serves it to him without remorse.

Miss Leah now lives with Sophie and Fannie. She is a feisty woman who demands respect, speaks her mind, and believes strongly in the oral tradition. Although Fannie wants to preserve Miss Leah’s stories in writing, Miss Leah insists that some stories can only be preserved by being told. At the end of the play, she continues the oral tradition by telling stories to Minnie’s baby girl.

Wil Parish
Wil is a forty-year-old man who was born into slavery. He is a trusted and loyal friend of the women, but he has a special relationship with Fannie. At the end of the play, they are finally engaged.

Wil is diligent in work and protective in relationships. He offers to ‘‘take care of’’ Frank when the women discuss the problems he poses. When the women ask him to be part of their scheme to get Frank back to the cabin, Wil is more than happy to help. He is respectful of all of the women, and his character provides a contrast to Frank.

Sophie Washington
Sophie is a thirty-six-year-old woman who was born into slavery and is now determined to make the most of her chance at independence. She is strong, both physically and emotionally, and she performs her responsibilities without complaining. She is also a visionary with a plan for what Nicodemus can become in the future. She envisions an all-black town complete with schools, churches, and libraries.

Sophie is not actually a sister of Fannie and Minnie, although the relationship among the three women has developed as if they were all related. Sophie originally joined the family when, in Memphis, she was doing laundry to support herself. She did laundry for Fannie and Minnie, and she eventually became like a sister to them. Sophie is supportive and protective of her friends and family, and she has no tolerance for condescension.

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