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Nellie Lee on the cover of Color Me Dark

All of the characters that appear in Patricia C. McKissack's Color Me Dark. Many of the characters also appear in the film and stage play.

Main characters[]

Nellie Lee Love[]

Main article: Nell Love

Makyla Smith as Nellie Lee

Nell[1] "Nellie" Lee Love (born December 28, 1908[2] – 1991)[3] was the youngest child of Freeman and Olive Love. She had two siblings, William and Erma Jean. Nellie Lee was particularly close to her sister who was only ten months older. Her family lived with her grandparents, Nessie and Till, in Bradford Corners, Tennessee where they operated a funeral home. Nellie Lee and her family moved to Chicago in May 1919, hoping to escape the racism of the south. There they encountered similar prejudices and witnessed the Red Summer.

Erma Jean Love[]

Main article: Erma Jean Love

Serena Lee as Erma Jean

Erma Jean Love (born February 28, 1908)[2] was the second child of Freeman and Olive after her brother William. Being only ten months apart, Erma Jean and her sister Nellie Lee were extremely close. In 1919, the shock of watching her favorite uncle, Pace pass away caused her to stop speaking. Her father later took her to a hospital in Chicago where she was diagnosed with "hysteria". In late spring 1919, Erma Jean's family permanently settled in Chicago. She finally recovered her voice during a race riot that occurred that summer.

Supporting characters[]

Freeman Love[]


Anthony Sherwood as Freeman

Freeman[4] Love ("Daddy") was the oldest child of Nessie and Till Love. He had five siblings, John Willis, Boston, Thannie, Meese, and Pace. Freeman married Olive Love, with whom he had William, Erma Jean, and Nellie Lee. He operated the family's funeral home with his father in Tennessee. In 1919, Freeman moved his family to Chicago where he had trouble obtaining a business license. He opened Love and Sons Funeral Home, North with help from Robert Abbott and Oscar DePriest. Freeman later moved his family to East 42nd Street. A "prominent" undertaker, he ran for public office but was never elected.

Meese Love[]


Derwin Jordan as Meese

Mitchell "Meese" Love was the son of Nessie and Till. He was the younger brother of Freeman, John Willis, Boston, and Thannie, and the older brother of Pace. At sixteen, he ran away to Chicago. He stayed with Mother Doris and her husband when he first got there. Meese was eventually able to open a supper club at 3319 Wabash. In late 1919, he went to Paris, France to open a new club. Meese lost his Chicago club due to Prohibition. He then moved to Paris permanently. Erma Jean later came to Paris to take care of his businesses when he became elderly.

Nessie and Till Love[]

Honesta "Nessie" (née Pace;[4] died 1926) and Till Love (died 1926)[3] were the parents of Freeman, John Willis, Boston, Thannie, Meese, and Pace. He was the son of Jasper Love and Lilly Tillman. Till ran the family business, Love and Sons Funeral Home, with his father and later his son Freeman. Nessie and Till were disappointed when Freeman decided to moved his family to Chicago. Boston then moved in with his wife and children to help with the business. Nessie and Till frequently exchanged letters with their granddaughters, Erma Jean and Nellie Lee. They passed away within months of each other in 1926.

Olive Love[]


Alison Sealy-Smith as Olive

Olive[5] Love ("Mama;" born January 3)[6] was the wife of Freeman, and mother of their three children. She worked as a teacher for a summer, before marrying her husband and becoming a housewife. Olive was noted for being "prim and proper". For example, she did not want her children to know that Meese ran a night club. In 1919, she and her family moved to Chicago. After joining the Ida B. Wells Club, Olive became involved in women's suffrage and anti-lynching rallies. She was the first women in her family to cast a ballot, when the U.S. Constitution was amended in 1920.

Rosie Hamilton[]


Barbara Mamabolo as Rosie

Rose Marie "Rosie" Hamilton (born August 29, 1909)[7] was the daughter of Mrs. Hamilton. She and her mother moved to Chicago in early 1919. Rosie, who was an especially curious person, was familiar with Chicago's landscape within a few short months of her arrival. She also knew everything about everyone who lived in her apartment building on State Street. Rosie became friends with Nellie Lee and Erma Jean, when they came to the apartment. She was later placed in the second grade at Dunbar.

William Love[]

William Love (born September 1901)[8] was the older brother of Erma Jean and Nellie Lee. When his father refused to allow him to join the Army, William ran away to Chicago to his uncle Meese. He signed up for the Army when he turned seventeen in 1918, but "never saw action" since the war ended in a month. Being scared to return to the south, William refused to come to Pace's funeral in early 1919. He was later discharged from the Army and joined his family in Chicago. William soon took a job as a porter, leading Nellie Lee to say he would "always be a rolling stone." Nevertheless, he settled in California where he married and became a teacher.

Minor characters[]

  • Alice Mary Simmons (born c. 1908)[9] was Bud Simmons' daughter. Her family later moved to Chicago, where she ran into her old friends Nellie Lee and Erma Jean Love.
  • Amanda Brooks was the daughter of John, a well-to-do landlord. She was rather snobbish and thought she was better than Nellie Lee and Erma Jean.
  • Beth Annie "Thannie" Love was the only daughter of Nessie and Till Love. She lived in Harlem, New York City, where she operated a music school. Thannie later became devoted to Garveyism.
  • Big Wally (died July 1919)[10] was a black police officer who was killed during a race riot.
  • Billy Collins was Liza's son. Despite being black himself, he often badmouthed black people, and bullied Nellie Lee and Erma Jean.
  • Boston Love was the husband of Celia, the mother of his four children. He and his wife had a farm outside Bradford Corners. When Freeman moved to Chicago, Boston and his wife gave up the farm to help his father with the funeral home. After he retired, two of his sons took over the business.
  • Miss Brady was Nellie Lee's teacher at Colored School in Bradford Corners.
  • Bud Simmons was a coal man in Bradford Corners. He later moved to Chicago with his family, including daughter Mary Alice.
  • Celia Love was the wife of Boston, with whom she had three sons. She and her husband owned a farm, which they inherited from her father. After moving in with Boston's parents, Celia gave birth to a daughter.
  • Clarice, Daisy, Joyce, and Juanita were students in Miss Franklin's class.
  • Mother Doris was a kind woman who looked after Erma Jean in Chicago. She lived in the same apartment building as the Loves'. After the death of her husband Lester, she lived alone with her two cats.
  • Doris Mason, a girl who cheated to become "Little Miss May Day" with Lela's help.
  • Eugene Williams (July 27, 1919),[10] a young man who lived with his parents on State Street. He was drowned when he accidentally drifted to the white side of the beach. His death sparked a race riot.
  • Miss Franklin was the third-grade teacher at Dunbar. She met Reverend Prince through her students, Nellie Lee and Erma Jean. They later began "courting", which eventually led to their marriage.
  • Gregory Hill, a banker Freeman and Nellie Lee met on a train. She thought of him as an "uppity-class snob", though he later helped Freeman with his problem.
  • Mrs. Hamilton was the mother of Rosie. She moved with her daughter from Arkansas to Chicago. Mrs. Hamilton later went to the Madam C. J. Walker Beauty School and became a hairdresser.
  • Honesta June Love (born July 1919)[11] was the only daughter of Boston and Celia.
  • Mr. James was the father of Josie. He was a successful and respected barber. Mr. James and Freeman started the Colored Men's Improvement Association together. In 1919, his barbershop was burned by the Ku Klux Klan, whom also attempted to burn his house.
  • Jasper Love was the husband Lilly Tillman with whom he had atleast two sons,[12] including Till. In 1879, he founded Love and Sons Funeral Home in Bradford Corners.
  • John Brooks was the landlord of the Loves' apartment building on State Street. He had three daughters Amanda, Hazel, and Yolanda.
  • John Willis Love was Nessie and Till's son. Described as "slow", he was uncomfortable around most people and kept to himself. He had a talent for woodworking and made the coffins for his family's funeral home. Nellie Lee loved to watch him work.
  • Josie James was Mr. James's daughter. She was a classmate and friend of Nellie Lee, who took up for her when two girls cheated her out of being "Little Miss May Day".
  • Lilly Love[12] (née Tillman) was the wife of Jasper and mother of Till.
  • Mr. Link, a man employed by Meese Love as his driver and bouncer. He was injured during the riot of 1919, though he later recovered.
  • Liza Collins was Billy's mother. A servant for the Stones', she lived in a small place outside their house.
  • Lizzie Palmer was Olive Love's grandmother. She was light-skinned, so people would often ask her if she was white. Lizzie always replied "No, color me dark."
  • Lela, a girl who helped Doris Mason become "Little Miss May Day" by cheating. Nellie Lee fought her, after overhearing Lela saying she did it because Josie was dark-skinned.

Barry Kennedy as Sheriff Bell


Jamie Robinson as Pace

  • Lon Bell was the sheriff of Bradford Corners. He grew up poor and his mother left him with Nessie while she attended school. Lon remained close to the Love family.
  • Minnie was Nessie's sister. Nellie Lee called her "Aunt Meany" since she was prejudiced against Erma Jean's skin color.
  • Oscar DePriest was the first black city alderman of Chicago. He helped Freeman get a business license.
  • Pace Love (died February 6, 1919)[13] was the youngest son of Nessie and Till. He joined the Army during the Great War. On his way home, Pace was beaten by a group of men for sitting in a whites only carriage on the train. He told Erma Jean what happened to him, before passing away.

Jim Codrington as Prince

  • Reverend Prince McDonald was the head of the Open Mind Church and Youth Center in Chicago. He later married Miss Franklin and continued to build his church throughout his life.
  • Robert Abbott, the editor of the Defender, who helped Freeman by writing a letter to his friend, Oscar DePriest.

Telmo Miranda as Tommy

  • Tommy Braxton was the oldest of the Braxton brothers. He often bullied Nellie Lee and Erma Jean. Tommy later surprised Nellie Lee by giving his condolences for her uncle. After a tornado hit their house, they moved to Chicago. He surprised Nellie Lee again when he helped her back to her house during a race riot.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois was the founder of the NAACP. He was the editor of Crisis, a magazine Freeman subscribed to.

Epilogue characters[]


See also[]

Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?