Boy Willie Charles
Boy Willie Charles, who is thirty years old, with an infectious grin and a boyish charm. He is brash, impulsive, and talkative. He is proud, and he believes that he and whites occupy the world equally. Boy Willie is an independent thinker and possesses a strong sense of what he believes. His immediate goal in the play is to get a piece of land, because, as he says, when you “got a piece of land you’ll find everything else fall right into place.” For him, land is the key to equality, dignity, and freedom.
Berniece, Boy Willie’s sister. Thirty-five years old and a widow, she still blames her brother for the death of her husband three years earlier. She now lives with her uncle, Doaker, and has come to Pittsburgh to work. She is strong, determined, serious-minded, intense, religious, and superstitious.
Doaker Charles, the uncle of Berniece and Boy Willie. Forty-seven years old, tall, and thin, he has been a railroad cook for twenty-seven years. He has retired from the world, has no fight left in him, and tries to serve as a peacemaker in the quarrel between Berniece and Boy Willie.
Lymon, Boy Willie’s companion. Twenty-nine years old, he talks little, but when he does it is with a straightforwardness that is often disarming. In his old truck loaded with watermelons, he has come with Boy Willie to Pittsburgh with the intention of selling the watermelons and remaining to find work, have fun, and find a woman.
Avery, a thirty-eight-year-old man, honest and ambitious. He wears a suit and tie with a gold cross around his neck and carries a small Bible. He wants two things: to start his own church and to marry Berniece.
Winning Boy Charles
Winning Boy Charles, Doaker’s brother. Fifty-six years old, he tries to present the image of a successful musician and gambler, but everything about him is old.
Maretha, Berniece’s eleven-year-old daughter.
Grace, a woman who goes home with Boy Willie and later with Lymon.