Q643 Summary

Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.

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FBI Catalogue: Tapes Not Summarized

FBI preliminary tape identification note: One 60 min Compact cassette / April 12 1978 Meeting #9

Date cues on tape:  February 16, 1978 (Edith Roller’s journal)

People named:

Public figures/National and international names:
Cheddi Jagan, leader of People’s Progressive Party, Guyana opposition party
former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev
Angela Davis, university professor, black activist
Carlton Goodlett, publisher of Sun-Reporter, physician
Huey Newton, Black Panther leader

Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Carolyn (several in Jonestown, probably Layton)
Christine (several in Jonestown, probably Miller)
Jane (several in Jonestown, probably Mutschmann)
Kay (several in Jonestown) (speaks)
Regina (probably Regina Bowser, could be Sonja Regina Duncan)
Sonya (either Sonja Regina Duncan or Sonya Evans)

Jonestown residents:
Sharon Amos (speaks)
Johnny Moss Brown
Robert Christian
Farene Douglas
James Edwards (“Reb”) (speaks)
Julius Evans
Tom Grubbs
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Margrette Jeffery
Chuck Kirkendall
Pam Moton, aka Pam Bradshaw (speaks)
Edith Roller (speaks)
Vennie Thompson
Charlie Touchette

Bible verses cited: None


The tape is the third in a series of four (preceded by Q 641 and Q 642, and concluding on 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.

Much of this tape finds the residents of Jonestown discussing the options that are open to them, if the war against them should erupt with the fascists invading their jungle settlement. Jones himself is absent for the first part of the tape – he interrupts one speaker to explain his absence by saying that he is in “strategy” with the Soviet Union –  but others (mostly unidentified males) stand in for him.

There are not a lot of options, and most of them are met with pointed questions. People who suggest fleeing into the jungle or standing and defending what they have built – as many of them do – are asked about the weaker members of the community who might not be able to endure such hardships. Those who argue that they should return to the U.S. are questioned how all of them could return. The man who suggests that a contingent of the community go to Africa and fight for liberation is greeted with a sigh of exasperation or frustration. Even though Jones himself offered this possibility for consideration on a tape recorded earlier in the evening, he is apparently against it now: “I have no intention of sending nobody– some to Africa and some here… We’ll have to be all together.” Only the “revolutionary suicide” option requires no defense.

Those who endorse the suicide option do not escape all questions, though, but rather are challenged about the depth of their commitment. In a conversation following a tape edit, a woman says she is willing to do anything. “Now that’s not answering the question,” a man says. “I’m willing to give up my child, too,” she replies. “Are you willing to kill your child?” the male asks. “Sure,” the woman says. “Why do you think it would be important to kill your child?” another woman asks her. “’Cause I wouldn’t want to leave her back here for the fascists to kill her.” After a moment she adds, “You know, and torture her.”

Another woman tries to parse the debate, by saying that they should threaten revolutionary suicide in order to get their demands met, but if that doesn’t work, “I feel we should fight for what we worked for.” The woman is able to express her arguments, but – through a combination of her soft voice and an increasingly-cranky P.A. system –  her words apparently don’t reach the back of the audience. As the crowd exhorts her to speak up, Jones adds, “Why don’t you shout like you grunted when you got fucked one time? … [S]urely to Christ, sometime or another, when you were involved in some kind of sexual shit, you made more noise than that.” (There is an irony here: the woman here is Sharon Amos, one of Jones’ most faithful followers. She died on November 18, but – unlike the others in the community – she was in the Temple’s Georgetown headquarters, where she led her children to a bathroom, slit their throats and then killed herself.)

Jones also interprets seemingly-ambiguous answers as endorsing the option for death. One man describes their defenses in stages, talks about Jonestown’s victory in the first battles, and then discusses the preparations to take care of everyone. Jones interrupts at that point to say, “He says, that means everybody oughta die. If people have to be taken care of.” Later, after arguing against a woman who stubbornly advocates defending themselves – either in Jonestown or in the jungle – Jones turns his momentary capitulation to her plan onto its head. “Okay, it has its merit. Or, commit revolutionary suicide here before we do any fighting.”

The only real consideration on Jones’ mind seems to be how the act of revolutionary suicide will be viewed afterwards. “We gotta think about history. We are communist. We gotta think about history.” He says he knows what would happen if they followed the suggestion of some and fought against the invaders. Whether the troops came from the Guyanese Defense Force or the U.S. Marines, they would be black, and history would judge any armed resistance to such a force as “inhumane.”

As the night wears on, the rhetoric of Jones – and the Jonestown leadership – is increasingly that of advocating death. Death is everywhere, Jones says. Everyone dies, he says at another. Whatever option they choose, people will die, he says at another. It won’t be easy to see people die, but we’ve seen people die, he says at another. And all these references to death occur in the course of five minutes. “We got no right to always live, when others die,” he concludes. “We shoulda felt just as much about the several million that died in Bangladesh two years ago.”

Yet the people who come to the microphone to speak maintain their resistance. One unidentified female returns to the theme of the judgment of history, and challenges Jones’ belief that they are commanded to acquiesce to death. “I feel that, if we took a stand … where we all decided to die, that it might never be interpreted correctly in history, and that we owe our commitment to socialism to stay alive as long as possible.”

But there is a note of despair that creeps in periodically, especially in the language of Jones and the others who speak with authority. Even as the options involving survival echo, Jones answers with a contradictory observation: “we’ve got to think as if there was nothing but our hands. And a lot of you write in with dreams. Every time we hear dreams. Pipe– yes, unfortunately.”

In the midst of the White Night, and even as the conversation is about to turn back to death, Jones whistles as he marvels about the beauty of what they’ve built. “What a night, that is, what a night out there. No walls for the whistle to come back. If you only saw that once, it was worth it. What a place to be here where you see the sunrises and the sunsets. If you only saw it once, it was worth it.”

It is apparent that Jones needs people to agree about the wisdom of the decision to emigrate to Guyana. The people came out of a sense of purpose rather than just on a search for peace, he says – and, upon his prompting, the audience agrees with him – and then he asks, “How many still glad you came?” Those who don’t raise their hands immediately are asked to explain themselves. “Catch ‘em,” he tells the Jonestown security. “That’s what you’re supposed to do is catch ‘em. Anybody don’t have their hand [up]. Catch ‘em.”

One of the more immediate concerns of the night is how they will respond to the decision of Guyana’s government to offer a temporary medical license to the Jonestown doctor and pharmacy. Will they accept the compromise, Jones asks, “Or do we want to make a total demand for total license… I don’t know whether we want to make an issue saying giving him a pure license or we’re gonna have a White Night, we’re going to have a death stand.” On the other hand, he continues, they may not need more than a six-month license. “Shit, by the end of six months, the goddamn nuclear war may come and the bombs drop, and there won’t be no more USA, then we won’t have no more trouble up here.”

The tape ends with the intrusion of another more mundane, yet crucial, issue. After arguing through the night about revolutionary suicide, fighting against black troops or fleeing to the jungle, the community is jolted with the news that the electrical crew burned up a water pump. The accident was caused by human error, and there is a chance the crew can make the repair, but they really need another pump – even if just for back-up – and the White Night is sidetracked by the debate on how the Jonestown budget can afford $2100 for an essential piece of machinery.

This White Night concludes on Tape Q 644.

FBI Summary:

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 6, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47-88, 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