Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jones speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 90/April 8 Service
Date cues on tape: 8 April 1978 (notation on tape box consistent with context)
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Helen (probably Buckley, given context, but several others in Jonestown)
Linda (several in Jonestown)
Paula/Paulette (name not fully intelligible, several women with those names)
Ruby (several in Jonestown)
Mary Ann Casanova
Loretta Mae Cordell, aka Loretta Coomer
Burger Lee Dean
James “Reb” Edwards
Ever Rejoicing, aka Amanda Pointdexter
Forrest Ray Jones
Johnny Jones, aka Johnny Moss Brown Jr.
Michael Ray (Billy) Jones
Martha Ellen Klingman
Levatus V. McKinnis
Larry Schacht, Jonestown doctor
Harriett Sarah Tropp
Leslie Wagner, aka Leslie Monique Wilson
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
In this tape of a Jonestown community meeting of an unknown date, Jones reviews the various praises and criticisms of different residents. While the tone of the meeting becomes difficult and angry towards the end, most of it is joyous — with laughter, music, dancing, and forgiveness — even if that joy is expressed in irreverent ways.
Although the tape starts with ongoing conversation, it seems to be close to the beginning of the meeting. People seem to be settling into their seats, and there is light sexual banter before the business of the meeting gets underway.
Jones calls on various community members who have shown courtesy and done good works, and singles them out for praise. Most of the cards he reads from, however, are about people who are up for discipline and who are either about to go on the Learning Crew — the community’s disciplinary unit — or who have completed their two- to three-day stint on the crew and are ready to be released. For the latter, Jones asks them to perform a dance, to pretend to be overcome by the Holy Spirit — to run up and down the aisles, speak in tongues, shout in ecstasy — and generally make fools of themselves. He recognizes that the display might be a little embarrassing, but as he tells more than one reluctant participant, “it’s worth getting off the Learning Crew.”
The results send the community (and Jones himself) into riotous laughter. Most of the dances last only a few seconds, but they are enough to keep everyone in good spirits. And Jones is true to his word — “She just danced her way off the Learning Crew,” he says after one performance — and later describes the evening as a “mercy night,” if the community miscreants will agree to provide this entertainment.
It is no accident that the true target of the evening is religion. “Make fun of this shit,” Jones calls out. “I want to get this shit out of here, because religion was back there. It was at the dinner table tonight.” It is not lost on him, thought, that the irreverent parodies of the church service are offensive to some residents. “I got a block of folk over here that [are] kinda upset about making fun of Jesus,” he says, but he adds that there is a reason for the disparagement of Christianity. “Don’t hesitate to make fun of Jesus. He kept us in ignorance so long.”
Jones expects everyone to participate, calling out the names of people in the crowd who aren’t joining in the fun, and bringing them forward for a solo. He gets up himself on several occasions, as his breathlessness indicates, and may be dancing throughout the session.
The tone stays spontaneous and light for the first half of the tape. Even when Jones is forced to put some seniors onto the Learning Crew, he says he hates to do it, and asks them in a kind voice if they will consent to spend the night on the disciplinary unit.
But the meeting loses its joy and spontaneity, when a six-year-old boy doesn’t dance as Jones asks him to. Jones asks him how that would translate into the defense of the community. “Son, how would we know you wouldn’t go to battleline, if we asked you to fight… the racist that want to kill, and the capitalist. Would you go out there tonight? Hmm?… Show me you’ll go fight. There’s the enemy down there. Go fight him. Go. Take your hand and go.”
The young boy eventually caves in to pressure from Jones and the rest of the community. The next child, a 15-year-old boy, is more stubborn, and resists even as voices in the crowd urge him on with calls of encouragement, demands, and derision. Eventually, the crowd becomes angry with him. “[Jones] told you to do it, punk, now you run up the fucking aisle,” one unknown male says.
Jones notes that the teenager’s refusal is putting the spirit of the evening in jeopardy, and asks, “Why do you want to kill a whole night for us, son? Why do you want to be the only difficult one here tonight?” A moment later — and with the boy still refusing — Jones lashes out at him. “You’re a goddamn masochist… If you want to be arrogant, you can be arrogant, prick. You be arrogant.” The boy still won’t make a fool of himself — something Jones says he doesn’t trust — and he is dismissed. “Get him out of my sight,” Jones says in a tight voice. “Get out of my sight.”
Other people dance, but the mood has soured. Jones offers other reasons for people to dance, and lists the miracles they’ve all witnessed, the injuries he’s prevented and the healings he’s performed. Jones then leads the community in a song about the miracles, and about socialism.
The meeting breaks up with Jones making a few house-keeping announcements. In context, it appears that the following day was supposed to be a day off, but he has asked the community to work a half day. He tells people they can sleep an extra hour, but puts the work detail in political terms: “Get up at seven and be out there, if you care about the liberation of our people.” The reward will be fried chicken for lunch, even though he points out how expensive that treat is to the community.
The meeting ends as people go to watch a movie.
Date of transcription: 3/7/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 6, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47, 39. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES, also referred to as “DAD”, seemed to be speaking before his congregation regarding various persons getting off the “learning crew”.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted September 2003