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)