Black Museum Founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph Found Dead in Baton Rouge

Officials say they are looking for the “person or persons” responsible for the death of community activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph, who founded The Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American History Museum.

Police told WAFB that officers found Roberts-Joseph, 75, in a trunk of a vehicle at 3:45 p.m. on July 12. The East Baton Rouge Coroner stated the cause of death was "traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation," following an autopsy on Monday, CNN reported. In a Facebook post a day after she was found, the Baton Rouge Police Department said they were going to continue to investigate the case. “The Baton Rouge Police Department joins the community in mourning the loss of Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community. We had opportunities to work with her on so many levels,” the department said in a statement on Facebook on July 13. “From assisting with her bicycle give away at the African American Museum to working with the organization she started called CADAV.

(Community Against Drugs and Violence) Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community, she will be missed by BRPD and her loss will be felt in the community she served.”

Following the news of her death, many took to social media to mourn the activist. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome wrote on Instagram called Roberts-Joseph “her dear friend and a mother of the community.”

“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,” Broome wrote. “In the days to come, I look forward to offering a more comprehensive tribute. Please keep her family in your prayers.”

The 75-year-old community activist in Louisiana founded the Odell S. Williams African American History Museum in 2001. The museum, located on the New St. Luke Baptist Church campus, is where the activist’s brother serves as a pastor, The Advocate reported. Roberts-Joseph was also in charge of organizing the annual Juneteenth festival. Previously, she told The Advocate about the importance of being educated and learning African American history.

"We have to be educated about our history and other people's history," she said in 2016. "Across racial lines, the community can help to build a better Baton Rouge, a better state, and a better nation."

The activist grew up in Woodville, Mississippi with her eleven siblings before her family moved to Baton Rouge. She went to the Baton Rogue Vocational-Technical School and then went on to study education and speech pathology at Southern University. After graduation, she began to volunteer in Baton Rouge as a minority business officer for the city and went on to work as a certified respiratory therapy technician. In 1996, she ran for Louisiana public office for the US Senate and then ran again three years later for lieutenant governor, according to The Advocate. She was also an advocate for veterans. Roberts-Joseph organized the annual Veterans Day celebration at the Port Hudson National Cemetery and honored those who fought in the Civil War. "When I try to do something, God always opens doors, and I try to do the very best that I can, not necessarily for me but particularly to help inspire and educate the younger generation," Roberts-Joseph told The Advocate during the celebration back in 2016. "I find gratification that we are coming together and realizing our differences are not as great as our commonalities."

Roberts-Joseph also started a non-profit organization called CADAV, which focused on making a safe environment for children living in north Baton Rouge, CNN reported. Since the news of her death, the #JusticeForSadieRobertsJoseph has circulated on social media, calling for the arrest of the person who killed the beloved community activist. “My heart is empty... as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered! This woman was amazing and loved her history. She never bothered anyone, just wanted to expand her African American Museum downtown, where she continually hosted the Juneteenth Celebration yearly,” state representative C. Denise Marcelle wrote on Facebook. “I loved working with her and am saddened by her death.... whoever knows what happened to her, please contact the authorities and say something. RIP my friend!”

Those who have any information about this case is urged to call the detectives at the Baton Rouge Police Department at 225-389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-STOP (7867).

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.