Charles E. Roberts in unique among the early African American students at Massachusetts Agricultural College in not being from the south. Although little is known about Roberts, he was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, on Mar. 21, 1887, one of apparently seven children of Perry Roberts (b. Apr. 1862), a janitor at the Society House in Amherst, and Ella E. Perry (b. Apr. 1865), who was listed as having a French Canadian mother. The family lived in a small Black enclave at 62 Hazel Ave., immediately below the Amherst College football fields.
Listed as a freshman in the Class of 1911, Roberts played fullback on the football team in 1908 and 1909, but he appears to have left school soon thereafter. In the US Census for 1910 he is listed as living at home with his family on Hazel Ave., and his occupation was recorded as “journeyman,” not student. His whereabouts thereafter are uncertain, although when his draft registration in 1918 makes reference to a wife and one child. More intriguingly, he was reported as Athletic Director at Lincoln University, maintaining the strong connection between early African American graduates of MAC and Historically Black Colleges. The last certain record for Roberts comes from the Census of 1920, when he was working as a machinist in Buffalo, married to Ida (“Mulatto”), age 30 from Georgia.