Mr. Freeman is Vivian’s boyfriend who lives with her, alongside Maya and Bailey, during their first year in St. Louis. He is a physical representation of the antagonistic forces of sexism, perversion, and violence that drive the main conflict of the book. At first he seems to simply be a sluggish and quiet man, keeping to himself until Vivian comes home each night. Maya notices that waiting for her mother seems to be an all-consuming activity for him, and she doesn’t pay him much attention until he molests her one morning, and then again another evening. Mr. Freeman is manipulative, telling Maya that if she tells anyone what they’ve done he will kill Bailey. Shrouded by her own innocence of the reality of his actions and ignited by her desire for fatherly care, Maya obliges, pining for his attention and disappointed by the lack of interaction between them after his abuse. For months Mr. Freeman is a detached and sullen figure, continuing to work as a foreman in the rail yard and fading into the background of Maya’s life.  

However, Mr. Freeman’s true vile nature is fully revealed a few months later when he rapes Maya. In court he appears cold and heavy, and though sentenced to prison for a year and a day, he is found beaten dead that evening. Mr. Freeman as a character reveals Maya’s confusion and wounding from abandonment by her own father. His presence in her life and his abusive and manipulative actions press Maya’s pain further down her heart, causing her to suppress her words in fear of creating more hurt. Mr. Freeman is not only the perpetrator of significant physical damage to Maya’s body, but he creates deeper emotional and psychological trauma, adding to the significant challenges Maya seeks to overcome throughout her adolescence.