Police Are Investigating the Death of African American Museum Founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Found Dead in the Trunk of a Car
Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are investigating the death of local museum founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph after her body was discovered in the trunk of a car on Friday afternoon. A veteran activist, Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then Museum of African American History, now known as the Baton Rouge African American History Museum, in 2001.
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and state representative C. Denise Marcelle have both stated on social media that they believe the 75-year-old was murdered, but investigators have yet to declare an official cause of death. Roberts-Joseph was found in a car three miles from her home, according to reports.
The city’s police described Roberts-Joseph as “a treasure to our community” on Facebook, writing that “our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.”
An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted today, and Broome is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of anyone connected to Roberts-Joseph’s death.
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In the midst of managing a major weather event in our parish, I was hit with some devastating news – the murder of a dear friend and a mother of the community- Sadie Roberts Joseph. I’ve deliberately waited to comment because of the level of love and respect I had for Sadie; and because it was such shocking news. She loved this city and its people. Her commitment to the cultural and educational fabric of our community is beyond description. The development of The Odell S. Williams African American Museum is a testament of her visionary and pioneering leadership. In the days to come, I look forward to offering a more comprehensive tribute. Please keep her family in your prayers. If you have any information that may assist in solving this horrific crime, please call Crime Stoppers at 344-STOP(7867) www.crimestoppersbr.com As an extra incentive, cash rewards are paid up to $5,000 for information which leads to the arrest and indictment of a person (s) that committed a felony crime. There are No Names, No ID, and No Court when you contact Crime Stoppers. But you must contact Crime Stoppers to become eligible for the cash reward and to remain anonymous. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
The African American History Museum, located at the New St. Luke Baptist Church (where her brother is a pastor), features exhibitions on African art, black inventors, and the Baton Rogue Bus Boycotts of 1953. It houses an authentic city bus from that period, as well as a garden that grows three varieties of cotton.
Each year, the museum hosts the city’s Juneteenth festival, organized by Roberts-Joseph, to mark the end of slavery in the US. She also helped found the Community Against Drugs and Violence program with the Baton Rouge police.
The NAACP’s Baton Rouge Branch called Roberts-Joseph a “cultural legend” on Facebook: “From reviving Juneteenth [celebrations], to the culture preserved at her museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this city.” She has been described as one of the last black oral street historians of Baton Rouge.
“We have to be educated about our history and other people’s history,” Roberts-Joseph told the local paper, the Advocate, in 2016. “Across racial lines, the community can help to build a better Baton Rouge, a better state, and a better nation.”
On Friday, Roberts-Joseph had visited her sister and neighbour, Beatrice Johnson, to bake a loaf of cornbread while her own oven was broken. “The bread is still there,” Johnson told the Advocate. “She never came back to get it.”
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