Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One 60 min Compact cassette / April 12 1978 Meeting #7
Date cues on tape: February 16, 1978 (Edith Roller’s journal)
Guyana Prime Minister Forbes Burnham
Viola Burnham, wife of Forbes Burnham
Shirley Field-Ridley, Guyana Minister of Information
Hamilton Green, Guyana Minister of Health and Labor
Frank Hope, Guyana Minister of Finance
Desmond Hoyte, Guyana Minister of Development
Hubert Jack, Guyana Minister of Energy and Natural Resources
Vibert Mingo, Guyana Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration
Ptolemy Reid, Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana
Angela Davis, university professor, black activist
George Jackson, imprisoned Black Panther
Jonestown residents not on death or survivors list:
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Al (several in Jonestown)
Anderson (probably Samuel Anderson)
Dianne (several in Jonestown)
Helen (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Jan (either Jann Gurvich or Jan Wilsey) (speaks)
Jeffrey (several in Jonestown)
John (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Joyce (probably Touchette)
Judy (probably Ijames)
Lisa (probably Layton)
Patty (either Parks or Cartmell)
Ruby (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Sharon (either Sharon Amos or Sharon Swaney)
Shirley (several in Jonestown)
Stanley (either Stanley Gieg or Stanley Clayton)
Wanda (several in Jonestown)
Geraldine Bailey (speaks)
Julia Birkley (speaks)
Regina Bowser (speaks)
Mary Ella Cook (speaks)
Tammi Delihaussaye (speaks)
Viola Forks (speaks)
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Christine Miller (speaks)
Mary Rodgers (elder of the two)
Bible verses cited:
The tape is the first in a series of four (continuing on Q 642, Q 643, and Q 644) of a White Night – the most serious White Night since the previous September, Jim Jones says at one point in Q 642 – in February 1978.
Even so – and as is the case with most of the tapes in this collection – the meeting is already underway when the recording begins. In the context of what follows, the proceedings have been going on a while. Jones has talked extensively about the news of the day, about the benefits of life in Jonestown, and about the gifts of protection and socialist virtue which he has bestowed upon his followers.
As he has in a few – but only a few – other taped meetings, Jones has been drinking alcohol, and in sufficient quantity that his speech is affected at times. It is also apparent he is the only one in the crowd who has been allowed to do so.
The tape opens with a woman named Viola Forks standing before the community to account for herself. She has a hard time concentrating on the questions that Jones and others ask her, and cries softly when she is flustered. While there are a few voices in the crowd that defend her, most of the others – including Jones – seem angry with her. They bring up recent incidents which may or may not have led to her being called before the people of Jonestown, but they also hearken back to transgressions that occurred in the States. Even her explanation of the things that happened months or even years earlier stir the antagonism of some. “[Y]ou’re so ready to defend yourself … you can think of something happening in Los Angeles and Berkeley and every place else,” one unidentified male shouts at her, but when she’s asked to recall only one of Jones’ virtues that have been discussed that night, she can’t do it.
Forks finds herself in a deeper and deeper hole as the meeting goes on, and Jones is the one leading the criticism. When she finally recalls something he said earlier that night, he mocks the paucity of detail. When she offers one of the standard praises of the leader, he asks if it’s the first time she’s thought about it.
Even her daughters participate in the public humiliation. When her 15-year-old points out that Viola “didn’t take on no responsibilities in the States either,” Jones praises the girl’s strength and suggests that the mother could take pointers from her. A few minutes later, a younger daughter compares Viola to Jones and finds the mother lacking – “she has said that she couldn’t think ‘cause she was under pressure, I think that she should stop and think what she is saying first and think of the pressure that you [are] going through right now when we [are] in this White Night” – and the community echoes Jones’ applause.
Viola is finally excused after she answers one question – “What are you going to do if [the fascists] come in?” – by saying she would fight. The question is at the core of the White Night. The Jonestown leadership has learned that the Guyanese government is split in its support of the community, and while they are still in favor with the prime minister and his heir apparent, lesser officials – including at least one who has control over the customs and immigration issues which are so important for Jonestown’s survival – are against them. In addition, several Guyanese Cabinet members, allies and antagonists alike, are out of the country, and one of their enemies could take the opportunity to attempt an armed takeover of the American encampment. “[It] is a possibility tonight,” Jones says. “It’s a possibility the fascists are in control.”
The threat affects everything. Jones declares on several occasions that they are “under military security” because they are in “a war.” The sleeping schedule of the seniors is dictated by security, the arrival and departure of community members in the meeting is dictated by security, the urgency in repairing the public address system is dictated by security. It also affects what they’ll do the very next day. “Tomorrow may find us around the circle, if the news does not pick up better,” Jones warns, “we may have to go with cutlasses in hand and weapons to protect our fields.”
Much of the meeting – both on this tape and throughout the night – is spent “in strategy.” During the early part of the evening, the alternatives under consideration to passively awaiting an invasion, include finding a place in the jungle to hide, allying themselves with Amerindian tribes, heading for the border, and defending their community with arms. Most of the conversation here focuses on the last option: Jones asks about manning the gate into Jonestown, blocking the road, and using their crane or bulldozer to disrupt invading forces. “’Cause if they come through that gate, it’s over,” Jones says. “It’s all over.”
The plans are being made on the spur of the moment and in an atmosphere of duress, and the articulation of them seems vague and incomplete. The proposals to harvest enough food to sustain the community either in battle or on the run, for example, do not seem workable. In general – perhaps because their leader has been drunk for much of the night, perhaps because the conversation about the threat doesn’t yet involve anyone other than the Jonestown leadership, perhaps because it’s still early and the gravity of the threat hasn’t sunk in, perhaps because the plans for survival are not well formed, or perhaps because everyone is tired – the crowd expresses little enthusiasm or even interest.
The option of resisting this threat through an act of revolutionary suicide does not arise in this tape – it does later in the evening – and the subject of death comes up only near the end of this tape. In the course of his repeated efforts to keep people from falling asleep, Jones follows up one cry – “Stay awake, goddamnit. Son of a bitch” – with a warning: “You may be all dying someday, very soon.” A moment later, he refers to a woman as being “the one protest against the cup that would’ve delivered us from our misery,” likely a reference to previous plans for mass suicide.
For the moment, though, Jones talks about their survival. He describes the struggle of socialists around the world, and includes themselves in that number. “When you live, it’s a struggle, and you have to fight, it’s a struggle. Socialism should not come easy when people have died all over the goddamn world for it.”
This meeting continues on tape Q 642.
Date of transcription: 3/15/79
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 5, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-86, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
There is nothing to compare between the two summaries, since the FBI did not write anything for this, or 64 other tapes which bear the notation “Tapes Not Summarized.” These tapes seems to have little on them which the FBI could use for its purposes of investigating crimes arising from the Jonestown tragedy, but then again, that describes many other tapes as well. The difference seems to be that one or two FBI agents catalogued this set of tapes – as evidenced by the typewriter used in writing the reports – and that generally, the transcriptions were made early in the process, before someone may have asked for greater detail in the reports.
Tape originally posted April 2006