A Hope in the Unseen


Ron Suskind

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on A Hope in the Unseen makes teaching easy.

A Hope in the Unseen Characters

Cedric Jennings

Cedric is the protagonist of A Hope in the Unseen, and the story follows him from his childhood and adolescence in a poor, black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., through his first year at Brown… read analysis of Cedric Jennings

Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings

Barbara Jennings is Cedric’s mother and the most important person in his life. She raised Cedric on her own because the boy’s father, Cedric Gilliam, wanted nothing to do with a child, and… read analysis of Cedric’s Mother / Barbara Jennings

Cedric, Sr. / Cedric Gilliam

Cedric’s father did not want a child in the first place, and when he found out that his girlfriend Barbara was pregnant, he pressured her to have an abortion, and deserted her when she… read analysis of Cedric, Sr. / Cedric Gilliam

Bishop Long

Bishop Long is the head of Scripture Cathedral, the Pentecostal church that Barbara and Cedric belong to. He is a central figure in their lives, as they attend services at the church twice a week… read analysis of Bishop Long

Zayd Dohrn

Cedric’s best friend at Brown during his freshman year, Zayd is the child of two progressive activists (both of whom used to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted list), and enjoys befriending someone so… read analysis of Zayd Dohrn
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Rob Burton

Cedric’s white roommate during his freshman year at Brown, Rob comes from a very different background, and the two boys have a number of conflicts based on their different perspectives on life. Cedric compares… read analysis of Rob Burton

Chiniqua Milligan

The other black student in Cedric’s unit during his freshman year at Brown, Chiniqua also comes from a working-class background. She has spent more time around middle- and upper-class kids, however, because she was… read analysis of Chiniqua Milligan

LaTisha Williams

Cedric Jennings’s one and only friend throughout high school. Like Cedric, LaTisha is an outcast at Ballou, but this is mainly because she is overweight; while Cedric dreams of attending an Ivy League college… read analysis of LaTisha Williams

Mr. Clarence Taylor

Cedric’s chemistry teacher at Ballou, Mr. Taylor is one of the people who recognizes Cedric’s intellect and potential from the beginning, and offered his spare time and energy to help the boy advance beyond… read analysis of Mr. Clarence Taylor

Donald Korb

A Boston-based optometrist, Dr. Korb is Cedric’s patron. He first read about the boy in a Wall Street Journal article and took an interest in him. While they only met once in person before… read analysis of Donald Korb

Bill Ramsay

The head of the summer program for talented high school students of color at MIT, which Cedric attends. Bill began the program with the goal of bringing some students out of poverty and giving them… read analysis of Bill Ramsay

Leon Trilling

A professor at the MIT summer program for talented high school students of color, Leon Trilling is the one who tells Cedric that he is not cut out for MIT. Citing Cedric’s lousy SAT scores… read analysis of Leon Trilling

Phillip Atkins

A classmate of Cedric’s from Ballou, Phillip goes to great lengths to fit in with everyone during high school, sacrificing his academic success in order to not stand out and run the risk of… read analysis of Phillip Atkins

Stephan Wheelock

A black graduate student at Brown, Stephan Wheelock teaches Cedric’s seminar on Richard Wright. One afternoon, Cedric overhears Wheelock talking to a friend about how difficult it can be to compete with other Brown… read analysis of Stephan Wheelock

Bernadine Dohrn

Zayd Dohrn’s mother. She is disappointed in her son for his lack of motivation to change the world and the way he sees women as sexual conquests. She was a radical activist as a… read analysis of Bernadine Dohrn

Helaine Schupack

Cedric’s tutor during his first year at Brown. She is an exceptional tutor, and worked with Dr. Korb’s son when he was younger; now, when Cedric is struggling academically during his freshman year… read analysis of Helaine Schupack

Larry Wakefield

One of Cedric’s teachers at Brown. When Cedric turns in an impassioned poem instead of the assigned analytical essay, Wakefield is forced to decide what to do. After much debate, he gives Cedric a… read analysis of Larry Wakefield

Professor Tom James

One of Cedric’s professors at Brown University. One of James’ strongest students is a Latino student named Franklin Cruz, who is adept at stepping in and out of his racial identity, like a coat… read analysis of Professor Tom James

Clarence Thomas

Chief Justice Clarence Thomas is a black man on the Supreme Court, and the second black justice in the Supreme Court’s history. Because of his academic achievements, Cedric Jennings is invited to meet with Justice… read analysis of Clarence Thomas
Minor Characters
Neddy Jennings
Nanette “Neddy” Jennings is Barbara’s older daughter. She often went to live with other relatives during Cedric’s childhood, but is close with Barbara as an adult. She accompanies Barbara to Brown for Parents’ Weekend, and attempts to support her mother when Barbara is nearly evicted for nonpayment of rent.
Mr. Fleming
One of the teachers at the poor school in Providence that Cedric observes for his education fieldwork class. Cedric is furious when Mr. Fleming judgmentally claims that he knows which of his students will die young.
Bill Dohrn
Zayd’s father and Bernadine’s husband. Like his wife, Bill had been a dedicated activist in his youth and was even on FBI’s Most Wanted List, which forced him to go into hiding for seven years. Bill and Bernadine believe that Zayd lacks purpose and interest in social issues.
Marion Barry
The mayor of Washington, D.C. When Cedric is in college, Barry is caught on video smoking crack cocaine, though Cedric believes that he was “completely framed” by white policemen. Cedric believes that Barry was targeted from day one because of his race.