Dr. Copeland is perhaps the most noble character in the entire story, as a black man who has made many personal sacrifices to devote his entire life's work to furthering the education and uplift of the black community. Dr. Copeland went to the North as a young man to get a college education, and then came back to the South to put his education to good use among the impoverished black community. He speaks very carefully and articulately, never once using the colloquial slang that characterizes the speech of the other black characters, such as his daughter, Portia, and his son Willie. Dr. Copeland feels a constant frustration with what he perceives as the ignorance of black people and their blind acceptance of an inferior societal position—a clear parallel to Jake Blount's frustration with the ignorance of lower-class workers. Dr. Copeland feels that education and strong teachers and leaders are the best means of combating black ignorance and poverty, but he is unable to find anyone of his own race who can help him with his goals. Dr. Copeland constantly feels alienated from both his own family and the broader black community, largely due to his radical views. Dr. Copeland's children have largely accepted the position white society has given them; all of them except Portia are afraid to even come to his house to visit because they know he will chastise them for the choices they have made in their lives.
Dr. Copeland, like Jake Blount, is a Marxist, but he does not have the same confused conception of the theory's implementation that Blount does. At the end of Part Two, when the two men finally discuss their political views, their personal, educational, and racial differences make it almost impossible for them to communicate; as a result, neither recognizes the other as a fellow reformer. Dr. Copeland's brand of Marxism is so highly intellectualized that he communicates his theory no more effectively than Jake does with his drunken rambling.