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Vandals damage Louisiana African American history museum founded by slain activist

CNN logo CNN 8/13/2019 By David Williams, CNN
a blue and white bus parked in front of a building: Police are checking for possible surveillance video of the vandalism. © WBRZ Police are checking for possible surveillance video of the vandalism.

A Louisiana African American history museum has been vandalized a month after its beloved founder was killed.

Benches were smashed, gardens trampled, a fountain destroyed and other artifacts damaged at the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum in Baton Rouge.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph, the founder of the museum, was killed last month, and her body was discovered in the trunk of her car. A tenant in one her rental homes has been charged with first-degree murder.

Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely said that the vandalism was reported Monday and that police believe it happened over the weekend. He said detectives would check with a nearby state office and other buildings in the area to see whether there is any surveillance video showing what happened.

Kevin Hayes told CNN affiliate WBRZ that he discovered the damage while paying his respects at the museum.

"It's a historic black museum, and a lot of kids did find time in the community and found ways to not do harmful things by coming into this place," Hayes said. "Just to see it vandalized is heartbreaking."

Roberts-Joseph, 75, founded the museum in 2001 after Baton Rouge refused to make black history a mandatory part of schools' curriculum. The four-room building features paintings of black inventors and honored African Americans in Louisiana and around the world. A bus outside tells the story of the Baton Rouge bus boycott.

Roberts-Joseph's son told WBRZ that he was aware of the vandalism.

"It's disrespectful and extremely disappointing," Jason Roberts said in a statement. "The museum has been there for the community since its inception."

Hayes said he's been coming to the museum since he was a kid and says the community needs to band together to protect it.

"It needs to stop, and we need to come together as a community and protect this place no matter what race, color, creed you are," he said. "We need to stand together for someone who was doing something right."

The museum was founded in 2001. © WBRZ The museum was founded in 2001.
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