‘Keep Saying Her Name’ Update On Sadie Roberts-Joseph: African American Museum Founder Was Suffocated

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Sadie Roberts-Joseph
Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Photo: ABC News video / Good Morning America

The death of beloved civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph sent shock waves around the country after she was suffocated and found dead in the trunk of her car in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

A voice for peace in her community, Roberts-Joseph founded and curated the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum. She started the museum in 2001 on the campus of New St. Luke Baptist Church where her brother is a pastor, according to The Advocate.

Preliminary autopsy results Monday afternoon showed that Roberts-Joseph, 75, died from “traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation,” East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph legacy

Roberts-Joseph organized an annual Juneteenth festival at the museum to remember the date on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers delivered belated news to Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all Southern slaves free.

The museum features African art, exhibits on growing cotton and Black inventors as well as a 1953 bus from the civil rights boycott period in Baton Rouge, ABC7 reported. The museum also has exhibits on President Barack Obama, whom Roberts-Joseph said was an inspiration to children.

Every day, Roberts-Joseph visited her sister, Beatrice Johnson, who lives two doors down on a quiet street in Baton Rouge. On Friday, Roberts-Joseph made cornbread “but her oven went out, and she brought it here to put in the oven,” Johnson said. “The bread is still there. She never came back to get it.”

Roberts-Joseph’s body was found about 3:45 p.m. Friday after an anonymous caller reported finding her, Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola said.  Police are looking for leads.

“Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community,” the police department said in a statement. “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.”

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Roberts-Joseph founded the nonprofit Community Against Drugs and Violence to create a safer environment for children in north Baton Rouge, CNN reported.

The activist wanted to expand her museum and “never bothered anyone”
State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle said on Facebook.

“We lost a Cultural Legend Yesterday! #RIP Sadie Roberts Joseph,” the NAACP Baton Rouge Branch posted on Facebook. “She was a trendsetter and icon in this City.”

Roberts-Joseph had a consistent message of unity to help communities “heal from the legacy of slavery and move forward,” The Advocate reported. She encouraged Black residents to embrace heritage, acknowledge past injustices and use their voices. “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going,” she said.