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."