Jake Brown, a black man from Petersburg, Virginia, who went absent without leave from the Army because he was assigned menial noncombat duties in Europe. He lived with a white woman in London before returning to New York as a stoker and has established a social hierarchy of whites, blacks, and Arabs. He finds Harlem amenable; there he is “happy as a kid” and makes love for love’s sake, steering away from the hate, violence, sadism, and commercialism associated with sex in the Black Belt. His love is warm and generous. His first affair, with Felice, pleases both, and he searches for her in earnest after she declines to keep his money. He is honest and versatile, neat and orderly, loyal, streetwise, and principled. He refuses to be a strikebreaker even though he is out of work. He seeks swift satisfactions, but although he is a “free, coarse thing,” he avoids drugs, gambling, and exploitation of women. He is stable, moderate, of strong pro-American feelings, and always able to cope. His short time with Congo Rose (for whom he felt no desire) was an act of compassion toward her and her need for a man. His continuing need is for Felice, and eventually he finds her and leaves with her for Chicago, optimistic about a new life there.
Felice, “a burning little brownskin” prostitute who likes Jake and declines to keep his fifty dollars. She is “too nice to be mean” and is honest about her professional activities. As frisky as a kitten, she is the embodiment of natural happiness and joy. Her attachment to Jake appears to be sincere and permanent.
Congo Rose, an entertainer at the nightspot of that name. She takes Jake as a lover when he is broke. When Jake slaps her on the face, she is delighted, but Jake is revolted...
(The entire section is 750 words.)