Abducted as a child from her village of Bayo and subsequently enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo wants nothing more than to secure her freedom and one day return home. Eventually escaping her masters, Aminata is thrown into the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan, Aminata helps pen The Book of Negroes, a list of British Loyalist-supporting former slaves rewarded with safe passage to Nova Scotia. Aminata’s gifts include an ability to read, write and translate between several languages - these are recognized by many of her peers and small, life-changing opportunities for leadership embolden her to find a way back home.
As a young boy, Chekura is recruited to assist the Bayo slave catchers in kidnapping local villagers only to be enslaved himself and forced to join Aminata on the Middle Passage, where they fall in love. He grows up on a neighbouring plantation in South Carolina and follows Aminata northwards to his eventual freedom.
John was born in England in 1764, of family stock that is both God-fearing and staunchly abolitionist. He joined the Royal Navy when he was eleven, and became a Lieutenant at the age of 22. The moral highlight of his life was to oversee the voluntary migration of 1,200 Black Loyalists from Halifax, Nova Scotia across the ocean to found the colony of Freetown, in Sierra Leone.
Solomon Lindo is of Sephardic Jewish descent, descended from those who had to flee Spain in the time of the Inquisition. His people travelled to England centuries ago, but even in England they did not enjoy full political and social rights. When the Province of South Carolina let it be known that it would respect the rights of Jewish people, he passed along his qualifications and was recruited to come to Charleston to become the chief indigo grader.
Robinson Appleby purchases Aminata at a slave market in Charleston, South Carolina. He is brutal in the treatment of his indigo plantation slaves and agrees to sell Aminata to Solomon Lindo after unsuccessfully trying to break her spirit.
Claybourne's wife and constant companion, Bertilda is a strong and opinionated woman who grew up fighting to stay free. When slave catchers begin undertaking periodic raids on Canvas Town, Bertilda will stop at nothing to keep her family intact.
Sam Fraunces was born in 1722 in the West Indies and came to New York as a young man, to make something of himself. He is determined to be successful in business, and believes that economic independence is the best way to protect and ensure one’s liberty.
Blind, wise, grizzled church leader in Nova Scotia, who doubles as community organizer and father figure to Aminata. Daddy Moses stands by Aminata through thick and thin. Many in the community look to him for guidance, both religious and practical and he is instrumental in organizing a mass exodus to Africa.