The Roberts Family Papers document the activities of a family who achieved many milestones
for African-Americans in California. Frederick Roberts was the first African American to graduate
from Los Angeles High School and the first African American state assemblyman. In addition, he
worked for the first African-American mortuary to be established in Los Angeles. His wife, Pearl,
attended both the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Boston Conservatory of Music. She
became the first African-American woman pipe organist in Northern California and founded a very
successful choral group which was acclaimed for its performance of spirituals. Frederick and Pearl's
daughter, Gloria, also pursued a career in music and performed in both the United States and Europe
as a concert pianist.
Frederick Madison Roberts was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1880 to Andrew J. and Ellen Wales
Roberts. From his mother, he acquired the distinction of being the great-grandson of Sally Hemings,
a woman reputed to be the mistress of Thomas Jefferson. In 1886, the family moved to Los Angeles,
where Andrew Roberts helped to start a tracking and storage company. He later opened a mortuary
business, Roberts Undertaking, and trained his sons, Frederick and William, to help him.