Pearl Hinds Roberts was the daughter of Lucy McKinney and Wiley Hinds, a former slave who left Arkansas in 1858 for the Central Valley of California. The Hinds family divided its time between Oakland and their large cattle ranch in Tulare County. Pearl Hinds studied music at the Boston Conservatory and Oberlin College, as well as with Fossett descendant Pauline Powell Burns in Oakland. For a time she headed the music department at what is now South Carolina State University.
In 1921 she married Frederick Madison Roberts, then a member of the California legislature. They lived in Los Angeles, where continued her musical career as organist and choir director in various churches. From 1942, she worked in retail—the first black salesperson in a downtown department store. Her watchword was, "If you have ideals, hang on to them despite disappointments."
“We should be treated as Americans.”
Pearl Roberts speaks of her husband’s political views and career.
After a while he became interested in politics. He ran for the Board of Education once and didn’t win. In 1918, he ran for Assemblyman and people thought he was crazy, but he was elected. He was there for 16 years, four terms. He was the first black elected to an official position in the state of California. He was the first black elected to a state office west of the Mississippi….
He didn’t like the word “Negro.” He used the term “Americans of African descent.” He wanted to stress the fact that we were Americans and should be treated as Americans. Whereas most newspapers would say, “another Negro lynched,” his newspaper would say, “another American lynched.” (Pearl Roberts typescript autobiography, Roberts Collection, African American Museum and Library at Oakland)