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)
In the south, the policy of white toward Negro is one of suppression and antagonism. Once the issue of social equality is raised, the whole American idea of fair play is laid aside in favor of mob force and lynching bees. The result is that our national tranquility is shaken to the roots, and the very life of American ideals is threatened.
In the west, on the other hand, the athletic ideal governs the relation between the races. Here the American idea of fair play prevails. The race issue is never present in politics, but rather Negro and Caucasian vote on all questions from a moral and purely objective viewpoint.
The problem of racial disorder in the south is not a Negro problem, but a purely American one. If in one corner of the land law and order may be set aside to favor the passions of a group, why is it not feasible to do the same thing in other parts of the country? Thus the very existence of the principles, upon which our nation was founded are at stake. (San Jose Evening News, 2 Sep. 1922)