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  • Sadie Roberts-Joseph was a prominent civil rights activist and icon for Louisiana's black community.

    Sadie Roberts-Joseph was a prominent civil rights activist and icon for Louisiana's black community. | Photo: WAFB

Published 15 July 2019

Sadie Roberts-Joseph was killed by "traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation" before her body was found in the trunk of her car in the state capital.

United States police in the state of Louisiana are investigating the murder of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a prominent civil rights activist and founder of an African-American history museum, whose body was found in the trunk of her car in Baton Rouge, officials reported Sunday.

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Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, was killed by "traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation" before her body was found in the trunk of her car in the state capital last week, according to a coroner's report released Monday.

The remains of her body were discovered on Friday afternoon about 4.8 kilometers from her home near the Southern University and A&M College campus.

Authorities were led to the victim by an anonymous caller who reported a body in the trunk of a vehicle, Baton Rouge Police Department Sergeant L'Jean McKneely stated. Police declined to give any further details of the investigation, although a message posted by the department on its Facebook page made clear they are treating Roberts-Joseph's death as a homicide.

They also paid tribute to the activist in a different Facebook post, recalling the opportunities they had to work with her. "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."

In addition to founding the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum, which opened in 2001, Roberts-Joseph launched the non-profit group CADAV.

According to a local newspaper in Baton Rouge, she organized the city's annual Juneteenth festival commemorating the U.S. abolition of slavery by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which was belatedly announced in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865, after the end of the Civil War.

Although she never held public office, Roberts-Joseph ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1996 and for lieutenant governor of Louisiana in 1999.

One of her 11 siblings, Beatrice Johnson, told The Advocate she last saw her sister on Friday when Roberts-Joseph stopped by with some cornbread batter she had mixed and wanted to bake at her sister's home because her own oven "went out."

"The bread is still there," Johnson was quoted as saying. "She never came back to get it."

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