Howard Belsey—husband of Kiki, an art historian at Wellington College, a white man originally from England.
Kiki Simmonds Belsey—wife of Howard, a hospital administrator, a black woman, descendant of American slaves.
Jerome Belsey—oldest son of Howard and Kiki, student at Brown University.
Zora Belsey—daughter of Howard and Kiki, student at Wellington.
Levi Belsey—fifteen-year-old youngest son of Howard and Kiki.
Claudia Simmons—Kiki’s mother, who bequeathed the Wellington home to Kiki.
Harold Belsey—Howard’s father, who lives in England
Montague “Monty” Kipps—black conservative professor and Howard’s nemesis.
Carlene Kipps—wife of Monty.
Victoria Kipps—sexually promiscuous, eighteen-year-old daughter of Monty and Carlene.
Michael Kipps—son of Monty and Carlene, a conservative businessman
Amelia—woman Michael marries.
Carl Thomas—black poet who is invited to sit in Claire’s poetry classes.
Chantelle—black student poet with whom Monty Kipps has sex.
Dr. Erskine Jegede—Howard’s best friend, a fellow academic.
Caroline Jegede—Erskine’s wife.
Claire Malcolm—writer and English professor who has a three-week affair with Howard.
Warren Crane—marries Claire Malcolm, a biochemist.
Jack French—Dean of Humanities department faculty, who hires Monty Kipps for a position in the Black Studies department.
Christian von Klepper—one of Howard’s visiting lecturers.
Smith J. Miller—Howard’s teaching assistant.