The three major publications which emerged from Jonestown between the summer of 1977 and the summer of 1978 served the same function as other publicity pieces by Peoples Temple. With photographs and commentary accentuating the positive aspects of the agricultural project, the promotional works were designed to encourage other Temple members to consider joining their friends and families in Guyana, to reassure family members outside the Temple of their relatives’ well-being, and to present Jonestown in the best possible light to the rest of the world.
The most extensive of the three is the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project Progress Report – Summer 1977. The 16-page report with a separate color cover gives the community’s lengthiest descriptions of its agricultural accomplishments and future plans, with special attention paid to experimental crops, soil preparation, and the nursery. Other pages are devoted to its other vocational endeavors in livestock and at the sawmill. The last portion of the report describes the Jonestown school and the medical and kitchen facilities.
The second booklet is a shorter version of the first. Printed with full color photographs on glossy paper, Jonestown: A Model of Cooperation was published in early 1978. The center spread includes pictures of a tractor preparing a field for planting, a fruit tree being grafted and – most predominantly – a garden plot bursting with vegetables. It also lists 32 crops under cultivation in Jonestown, ranging from fruits (pineapples, bananas, and watermelon) to vegetables (eggplant, cucumbers, and cabbage) and beans (black, pinto, and bora).
The third booklet, A Feeling of Freedom, reflects the undercurrent of tension which had begun to seep through all of Jonestown’s communications with the outside world. Published in late summer 1978 – after the defection of Debby Blakey, after the discovery of several government investigations into the Temple, after what it perceived as receiving nothing but negative publicity – the booklet offers testimonials from residents and visitors alike, with no other descriptions of the project or its work.
While the brochure was available as a separate publication, its initial distribution was in a packet of materials that went out to Temple families and friends, the press, and political supporters in California. The other items in the packet included:
- A cover letter on Temple stationery which describes Jonestown as “a caring, sharing community where men, women, and children of all backgrounds live in total racial and economic harmony”;
- A news article from the Guyana Chronicle announcing the accreditation of the Jonestown school.
- A column from the San Francisco Sun Reporter from June 1978 which praises Jonestown and attacks some of Jim Jones’ critics as those “who … would do him physical harm or use the courts to destroy him.”
- A letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle from July 1978, in which Temple attorney Charles Garry quotes extensively from a report made by two recent visitors to Jonestown (also quoted in the booklet itself). “Isn’t it about time that the voices of the 1400 persons who are in Guyana pioneering a new way of life receive equal coverage?” Garry concludes his letter.
The booklets are courtesy of several former members of Peoples Temple.