The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Paul is a steady, hardworking young man of mixed racial heritage. Throughout his life, he struggles to come to terms with his relationship to his white, landowning and formerly slave-owning, family and with his deep desire to own land. He seeks to master his fate and limit the extent to which the racist, postbellum (post-Civil War) southern society can circumscribe his role. Paul is a skilled horseman and furniture maker and an industrious laborer. He is loyal and fair, and he reacts calmly in the face of cruelty and racism, while persistently trying to counteract bigotry and injustice.
Paul's best friend. Mitchell is the son of a worker on Paul's father's farm. Mitchell resents Paul when they are children because of Paul's privileged life. He also deplores Paul's foolish faith in the constancy and loyalty of his white family members. Mitchell enjoys the nomadic and unfettered life that he and Paul lead when they work in the lumber camp together. Though Mitchell enjoys courting the ladies, he has no desire to settle down until he marries Caroline. Mitchell has a more difficult time remaining calm when confronted with the attacks of racist whites than Paul does, and his volatility ultimately plays a significant role in his own death.
Paul's white father. Mr. Logan is a southern plantation owner who prospers from and participates in racist institutions, but he tries to treat blacks fairly and with respect. Edward takes a black mistress even while his white wife is alive, and though he treats her gently, she still has no agency in the course of the relationship. Edward raises his four sons, Paul and three white boys, essentially as equals in his household. But when Paul comes of age, Mr. Logan struggles to teach him the rules by which he must live as an adult, black male.
Paul's first and only love and Mitchell's wife. Paul first meets the kindhearted Caroline when she is defending and comforting a black boy from the taunting of peers. Caroline is industrious, independent, forthright, and strong willed—she never hesitates to speak her mind or cling stubbornly to her convictions. Mitchell and Paul welcome her onto the forty acres as a hard worker and as a source of laughter, happiness, and comfort. She serves as an unlimited supply of inspiration and faith.
One of Paul's white brothers. Robert is roughly the same age as Paul. He and Paul grow up side by side and spend almost their entire childhood playing together, defending each other and learning together. As Robert grows older, however, he begins to perceive the significance of their racial differences, and the two begin to grow apart. After Robert betrays Paul, the two become irreparably estranged.
A woman of part African-American and part Native-American ancestry. Born a slave on the Logans' farm, Paul's father takes her as his mistress, much to the distress and consternation of his white wife. When Mr. Logan's white wife dies, Paul's mother becomes like a wife to him, though she retains separate living quarters and regards herself primarily as his servant. She grows to feel tenderly toward Mr. Logan, and, after Emancipation, she chooses to stay with him, regarding her housewifely duties strictly as her work. From an early age, she tries to instill in Paul an understanding of the significance of his race.
Paul's black older sister. Cassie moves to Atlanta and marries shortly after the novel begins. She is loving and motherly and tries to help Paul come to terms with the difficulty of living as a white-skinned black in their society.
Paul's oldest, white brother. Hammond is fair-minded and even-tempered. He repeatedly tries to convince Paul that he is as much brother to him as Robert or George.
Paul's second oldest, white brother. George is passionate and quick-tempered. Like Hammond, George vehemently professes having no racial bias toward Paul.
Caroline's father. Sam Perry is a man skilled in healing animals and blessed with a large family. He is friendly, gentle, generous, and trusting.
Caroline's mother. Rachel Perry is hardworking and cautious. As a child, her owner's wife took her name away, insisting that Rachel's mother call her by another name. Consequently, Rachel is deeply suspicious of all whites.
Caroline's younger brother. Nathan is fascinated by Paul's skill as a carpenter and goes to live with Paul on the forty acres and learn his trade. Paul is concerned for him because Nathan insists on befriending Wade Jamison, a white man.
Mitchell's father. Willie is skilled as a caretaker of animals but is less skilled with his family. He beats Mitchell frequently, and when Mitchell runs away, he beats his wife and younger children as well.
A shop owner in Vicksburg. Luke Sawyer is a skilled and honest businessman. He takes Paul on as a furniture maker and treats him fairly. Paul learns about haggling from Sawyer.
A greedy and dishonest landowner. It is from Filmore Granger that Paul attempts to buy forty acres of land.
Fillmore's son. Harlan learns his father's crooked and bigoted ways and carries them into Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry.
An opportunistic northerner. Hollenbeck bought a sizable portion of Fillmore Granger's land.
A trustworthy Vicksburg local interested in buying land from Hollenbeck.
Charles's son. Wade is driven to repay the wrongs committed against blacks under slavery by a sense of justice. Wade plays a crucial role in Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry.
A drunken ne'er-do-well. Digger resents Paul's and Mitchell's mounting successes.
Digger's meek younger brother.
A man at the east Texas horse race. Sutcliffe offers Paul the chance to ride his horse in a race and then neglects to pay him afterward.
The woman who hides Mitchell and Paul when they are running away from Mr. Logan. Hattie gives them jobs on her farm.
The boss of the lumbering camp where Paul and Mitchell work.
A girl who lives near the lumbering camp. Maylene is a sweet young girl who packs Paul and Mitchell a lunch before they leave the camp.