Woman Found Dead in Trunk of Car Was Founder of Baton Rouge African American History Museum

Louisiana Juneteenth Director Sadie Roberts-Joseph speaks at the 26th Annual Juneteenth Roots and Heritage Festival Saturday, June 17 at the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American Museum. | ADVOCATE PHOTO BY RAEGAN LABAT

A woman found dead in the trunk of a car Friday evening was the founder of Baton Rouge’s African-American history museum — a strong voice of pride and unity beloved for her quiet leadership and unwavering support of the city’s black community.

Baton Rouge police said Saturday morning that the victim was Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75. Her body was found in the 2300 block of North 20th Street, about three miles away from her home. The cause of death has not been determined.

The Baton Rouge Police Department mourned Roberts-Joseph in a Facebook post not long after releasing her name, calling her “a treasure to our community.”

“Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace,” the post says. “Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.”

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle also posted on social media about Roberts-Joseph’s accomplishments and contributions, including her role in raising awareness of African-American history and the civil rights movement. “My heart is empty … as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered!” Marcelle wrote. “This woman was amazing and loved her history. She never bothered anyone.”

Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American History Museum in 2001. The museum is part of the New St. Luke Baptist Church campus on South Boulevard, where Roberts-Joseph’s brother serves as pastor. It sits in the shade of elevated Interstate 10 that bisects the historically black neighborhood of Old South Baton Rouge.

Roberts-Joseph also became known for organizing an annual Juneteenth festival at the museum. She told the Advocate during the 2018 celebration that she led a “rebirth of Juneteenth” in Baton Rouge back in 1991. The day commemorates June 19, 1865, when the state of Texas first learned from Union soldiers of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — signed more than two years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863 — declaring all slaves in the South were free.

Through her decades of leadership in the Baton Rouge area, Roberts-Joseph presented a consistent message of unity and togetherness aimed at helping communities “heal from the legacy of slavery and move forward.” She encouraged black residents to embrace their heritage, acknowledging past injustices and using their voices to close racial divides and create a brighter future: “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

“We have to be educated about our history and other people’s history,” she told the Advocate in 2016. “Across racial lines, the community can help to build a better Baton Rouge, a better state and a better nation.”

Roberts-Joseph also used her position to encourage African American children. She celebrated the election of Barack Obama, who is featured prominently in the museum. She said his presidency “gives children in particular a sense of hope. As we inspire and as we educate them, we will see our youth doing greater things.”

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Source: The Advocate

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