- Maggie - Though described by her mother as dull and unattractive, Maggie is a very innocent and humble character. She leads a simple and traditional life with her mother in the South while her elder sister, Dee, is away in school.
- Mama - Acts as narrator of the story. She is also known as Mrs. Johnson. She is a middle-aged or older African-American woman living with her younger daughter, Maggie.
- Dee/Wangero - Eldest daughter of "Mama" and sister to Maggie. She is very "educated, worldly, and deeply determined"; she doesn't let anything get in the way of getting what she wants.
- Hakim-a-barber - Dee/Wangero's boyfriend, possibly husband, she brings to dinner at her Mamas house. He is referred to as "Asalamalakim", which is a Muslim greeting, by Mama because he is Muslim. He is short and stocky and has long hair that reaches his waist and a long, bushy beard.
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