The author of the book is named Westley Watende Omari Moore, a name he admits that he himself was not comfortable spelling until he was “well into elementary school.” Like “the other” Wes Moore… (read full character analysis)
“The other” Wes was also born in Baltimore and is the second child of Mary and the younger half-brother of Tony. Moore’s father, Bernard, is absent throughout his life. Although Tony and Mary… (read full character analysis)
Tony is Wes’s older half-brother, born to Mary when she was only 16. He spends most of his time in the Murphy Homes Projects and has been dealing drugs since before the age of… (read full character analysis)
Nikki is Moore’s older half-sister, the daughter of Joy and her first husband, Bill. She struggles after the death of her stepfather, Westley, as this causes Bill to cease all financial and… (read full character analysis)
Westley is Joy’s second husband, the father of Moore and Shani, and the stepfather of Nikki. A radio journalist educated at Bard College, Westley has an “insatiable desire to succeed” and lands… (read full character analysis)
Moore’s grandfather James is originally from Jamaica, where he meets his future wife Winell while a ministerial student at the age of 18. The couple immigrate to the United States so James can study… (read full character analysis)
Alma is Wes’s maternal grandmother. When Mary tells her she is pregnant at 16, Alma replies that it’s fine as long as Mary gets her education. Mary intends to rely on her mother for… (read full character analysis)
Bernard is Wes’s father. Within a few months of meeting Mary, Bernard gets her pregnant with Wes; however, after this point he disappears. An alcoholic, Bernard never graduated high school and doesn’t have… (read full character analysis)
A close friend of Moore, Justin is one of the only other black kids at Riverdale. Justin is an excellent student and is warned by the Riverdale faculty to stay away from Moore, however… (read full character analysis)
Mayor Kurt Schmoke grew up in Baltimore and attended Yale, Oxford, and Harvard before being elected the first African-American mayor of the city. As mayor, he is known for his progressive and effective policies, although… (read full character analysis)
Shea is a friend of Moore’s from the Bronx who gets involved in the drug game at a young age. When Moore is at Valley Forge, Justin tells him that Shea has been arrested… (read full character analysis)
Ray is the boyfriend of a girl Wes sleeps with, who subsequently gets into a fight with Wes. After summoning his boys, Wes chases Ray downs the street shooting at him. Ray is shot in… (read full character analysis)
Mary is the mother of Wes and Tony. Only 16 when she becomes pregnant with Tony, she is nonetheless determined to get her education and is the first person in her family to enroll… (read full character analysis)
Sergeant Bruce Prothero
Sergeant Prothero is a Baltimore police officer and father of five who is working his second job as a mall security guard during Wes and Tony’s jewelry store robbery. Tony shoots Prothero three times in the mall parking lot, and Prothero dies while the brothers drive away.
Shani is Moore’s little sister, the youngest child of Joy and Westley, and is only a baby when her father dies. Moore describes her as a “prodigy,” and she graduates from Princeton and Stanford Law School.
Winell is James’s wife and Moore’s grandmother. Originally from Cuba, she moves to Jamaica before moving again to the United States with James. Strict yet supportive, Moore describes her as a “lioness” and the “matriarch” of the family.
Bill is Joy’s first husband and the father of Nikki. They meet through the black student association at American University and quickly fall in love. However, Bill’s addiction and abuse force Joy to leave him.
Mamie is Wes’s paternal grandmother. Although Wes barely knows his father, Bernard, Mamie loves her grandson and likes to spoil him.
Kenneth is Wes’s maternal grandfather. While he is usually a “gregarious and fun-loving person,” he has a problem with alcoholism. When Alma dies, he drunkenly tells his children: “Sorry, guys, mom’s dead.”
In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana to independence from the British and served as the country’s leader until 1966. Moore’s grandfather James meets Nkrumah by chance after moving to the United States, and the two develop a close friendship.
Howard is Moore’s uncle. A positive influence in Moore’s life, Howard’s attempt to integrate Moore’s Riverdale friends with the neighborhood kids ultimately fails. Years later, he reminds a cocky 16-year-old Moore that—while he hopes Moore makes it to the NBA—it is important to have a backup plan.
Wes meets Alicia on a school bus and is instantly attracted to her. Two months after they meet, Alicia discovers she is pregnant. She and Wes end up having two children together, although Wes continues to see other girls.
Cheryl is another of Wes’s girlfriends. Slightly older than he is, she is a heroin addict who unsuccessfully tries to hide her drug use from him. She and Wes have two children together. Cheryl dies at 24 after falling down the stairs.
Cadet Captain Ty Hill
Captain Hill is a young African-American man who achieves an exceptional level of distinction at Valley Forge. He becomes a mentor to Moore, and years later is one of the groomsmen at Moore’s wedding.
Nicey is Wes’s aunt. After he gets out of prison, Wes lives with her, hiding the fact that he is dealing drugs again. Aunt Nicey attends Wes’s trial for the murder of Sergeant Prothero and comforts Mary when Wes is sentenced to life in prison.
Dalio is the platoon sergeant of the other platoon in Moore’s company. He and Moore are attacked by a group of drunk teenagers that includes Colonel Bose’s son while they walk to town to get strombolis.
Colonel Bose’s Son
Colonel Bose’s son, who is never named, attacks Moore and Dalio while they are in the town near Valley Forge. While at first his targeting of the two cadets seems random, he later begins shouting racist abuse at Moore.
Levy is a friend of Wes’s whom Wes goes to for advice when he decides he wants to get out of the drug game. The two men enroll in the Jobs Corps program together.
Mama is Moore’s host mother during his study abroad program in South Africa. Her husband was a freedom fighter during the struggle against apartheid.
Zinzi is Mama’s son. He and Moore become close friends when Moore is in South Africa. While Moore is preparing to go back to the United States, Zinzi is preparing undergo the Xhosa ritual of initiation into manhood.
Dawn is Moore’s wife, to whom he proposes while working as an assistant to Condoleezza Rice in Washington DC. Although we learn little about her, Moore describes her as “the most remarkable woman I know and the best friend I have.”