Jonestown As a Reflection of American Society

The development and destruction of Peoples Temple posed a potential threat to how citizens of the United States understood themselves and the forces at work within American society. The development and destruction of Peoples Temple demonstrated how American society can regard differences with contempt, demonize victims, and pursue individualism and competition in such a way that communities can be destroyed and individuals left without a meaningful way to interact with others. Accordingly, within the United States, there has been little acknowledgement that those who died in Jonestown might have had anything worthwhile to contribute to public discourse. Instead, Jonestown has been appropriated by the so-called anti-cult movement which seeks to demonize and dismantle organizations which attempt to subvert the normative social order.

In this paper, those who died in Jonestown will be re-humanized. Drawing upon the theories of Emilé Durkheim, Max Weber, David Chidester, and John Hall, those who died in Jonestown will be considered as sane and rational, making choices which were congruent with their social and religious identity. In this context, the impact of society sidestepping accountability will be touched upon. Finally, I will consider that an unwillingness to confront one’s own moral failings results in a diminished capacity to make dramatic social change.

The United States of America’s tendency to demonize those who are not members of the dominant class serves a distinct, important purpose for capitalist society. Capitalism requires a large reserve of poor, disenfranchised people. Furthermore, in order for those who are part of the ruling class to view themselves as moral beings, the poor must be constructed as being responsible for their own poverty. Ergo, when groups of demonized, oppressed people do not live down to the standards of the oppressors, the façade is threatened and those in power are forced to either face their own immorality or destroy the group that is rising up. When a group reflects the depravity of a society, the society must either demonize that group or accept its own shortcomings and change them.

Peoples Temple and Jonestown were critiques of the American capitalist system in life as well as in death. Rather than examine the uncomfortable truth that Peoples Temple revealed, we have focused on the pornographic. In order to avoid the truth, authors from all directions have systematically reduced the people of Jonestown to evil, crazy, brainwashed, or so completely “other” that they are barely recognizable as human.

It is not possible to know how many people laid down their lives willingly and how many were forced. Given that nearly one third of those who died were children, it is impossible to classify all of the deaths as willing suicide. The widespread loss of human life, particularly young life, is certainly tragic. It is impossible to fully imagine the sort of pain and fury the families of those who died must feel. In attempting to examine and discuss Peoples Temple as a sane group whose members deliberately and rationally chose an intentional and meaningful death, I am not denying the legitimacy of those feelings, nor am I advocating for suicide or any violent action as a way to send a message. Rather, I am examining the suicidal impulse of the collective whole (which, of course, does not take into consideration all the subtleties, all the horror, all the tragedy of each individual’s death). I believe that we ought to examine the Jonestown event, not as a singular phenomenon, but as an example of the United States’ tendency to make human life and dignity secondary to capital gain. This is but one in a number of perspectives, but I believe that it is one that is necessary. My hope is that, through this study, I will find meaning where there seems to be none, and cultivate growth in the wake of destruction.

In this paper I attempt to demonstrate that Peoples Temple was a reflection of its time and society, that the deaths in Jonestown were the expressions of a fully human group’s social and religious identity, and that the rejection and othering of those who died is reflective of a capitalistic, American trend that hinders the moral progression of our society.

Initially Peoples Temple reflected American aspirations that emerged during the 1960s. It sought to create a social order in which the individual was defined in terms of the community; race and economic status would no longer hold significance, and all people would be responsible to and for one another. Jonestown was meant to be a place where the sacred ideals of a religious community could be realized, a place outside of the United States which was seen, in the eyes of Peoples Temple, as irrevocably tainted by capitalism, racism, individualism, greed, and intolerance. The death was meant to be revolutionary, to demonstrate to the world that one could place ones ideals ahead of oneself.

Peoples Temple was formed in 1955 in Indianapolis, Indiana and became an official part of the Disciples of Christ in 1960. Peoples Temple services were similar to those of Pentecostals, featuring healings, speaking in tongues, and a biblical message. It was founded by Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher who began his pastoral career as a student pastor in a Methodist Church. Jones left the Methodist Church because of his strong belief in racial equality and integration. His primary messages were about social and racial equality, justice, and communalism. Jones ran the Temple with the help of his wife, Marceline and recruited Archie Ijames, a black Temple member, to be the assistant pastor. The membership was composed primarily of African-Americans and working class whites, many of whom were initially attracted by Jones’ miraculous healings.

The Temple experienced significant growth and success in its first decade and, by 1960, opened a free restaurant and social service center, offered drug and alcohol counseling, and operated nursing homes. The substantial humanitarian works of Peoples Temple were recognized by city officials who, in 1961, invited Jim Jones to be director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission, a position he used to aggressively fight segregation.

Jones’ integrationist politics made him and his family the victims of persistent harassment, which ultimately contributed to a mental breakdown requiring hospitalization. Following his release from the hospital, Jones and his family traveled to Guyana, Cuba, and Hawaii before moving to Brazil for two years. While in Brazil, Jones had a vision of a nuclear holocaust, a vision he became increasingly concerned with over the next few decades.

In Jones’ absence, Peoples Temple was run by associate pastors Russell Winberg, Ross Case, Jack Beam and Archie Ijames, but without its principal leader, Peoples Temple began to fall apart, financially and organizationally. Toward the end of 1963 Jones left Brazil to return to Indianapolis with an intensified commitment to communalism.

In 1965 Jones decided to move Peoples Temple to California, where he felt it would be safe from any potential nuclear attacks. Although only about 150 members of the Indiana church followed Jones to California, the membership quickly grew, reaching 3,000 in the mid-seventies.[1] One of the most significant new members to join in California was Timothy Stoen, the Assistant District Attorney of Mendocino County whom Jones met while serving as the foreman of the Mendocino County Grand Jury.[2]

In 1968 Peoples Temple was officially recognized by the Disciples of Christ Church and in 1969 Peoples Temple Redwood Valley complex opened. In 1970 Peoples Temple began branching out into San Francisco and, in 1972 they purchased a building for services. Peoples Temple began busing its members along the coast of California for services in Redwood Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The headquarters remained in Redwood Valley until 1976, when it moved to San Francisco. The Los Angeles church had its own ministers and church leaders. From 1972 until 1978 Peoples Temple was primarily active in San Francisco where its members made a substantial impact on the political scene. In 1974, a small group of Temple members went to Guyana to begin building a settlement that would ultimately become Jonestown.

From 1970 until 1975 Peoples Temple was primarily concerned with social service. They practiced the social gospel by living communally and caring for the oppressed of society. The Temple “addressed issues of drug rehabilitation, medical care, child care, and feeding the hungry.”[3]

While in San Francisco, Peoples Temple was similar to a Pentecostal church with emphasis on the social gospel, faith healings, and charismatic services. However, Jim Jones himself was still presented as a prophet of social justice and equality. Peoples Temple was Christian only insofar as they viewed Jesus as a heroic figure, but there was a clear departure from traditional Christian dogma. This was evidenced by Jones’ publication of “The Letter Killeth,” a booklet which reviewed the Bible in exhaustive detail and pointed out inconsistencies. “The Letter Killeth” also noted the Biblical justification for slavery, violence, and inequity. However, even though this booklet was a critique of the Bible, its subtitle calls for readers to “Exalt the Name of Jesus, and Not the King James of England!!” Moreover, although most of the booklet was devoted to pointing out flaws in the Bible, the first section made the point that the words themselves are useless without a Prophet through whom to interpret them. The first section explained why a prophet is needed and the second explained how one can know that Jones is that prophet. Then, prior to the Biblical criticism, Jones articulated the truths that the Bible does communicate.[4]

In 1975 Peoples Temple took its first step into the public forum. During this year Peoples Temple became involved with the mayoral race between liberal George Moscone and conservative John Barbagelata. This involvement marked Peoples Temple “turn from a progressive church in the Disciples of Christ to an activist political organization.”[5] While planning the campaign, someone from the Moscone camp suggested that Peoples Temple volunteers help with the campaign. They succeeded, Moscone won and, “[s]oon the Temple was being bandied about as one of the community groups needed to pull together a winning liberal coalition.”[6]

Following this event Peoples Temple began to focus heavily on political action and activism, although they still continued to address human needs. The Temple not only engaged in Democratic Party events but also in revolutionary politics.[7] The election of Moscone led to Jones’ appointment to the San Francisco Housing Authority. He quickly became its chairman.

Peoples Temple’s social services also continued to attract attention. Jones was named as one of the nation’s one hundred outstanding clergyman by Religion in Life magazine in 1975; he was recognized as the “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Los Angeles Herald in 1976; and he won the “Martian Luther King Jr., Humanitarian of the Year” award in 1977.[8]

Peoples Temple members embodied their ideals in their day-to-day life. They lived in an egalitarian society. The communal living situation included public confession and humiliation as forms of constructing a collective conscious.[9] These meetings, known as catharsis, were a carryover from Indianapolis. One member, Patricia Cartmell, who had joined in Indiana, described catharsis meetings as such:

[E]ach member of the body was encouraged to stand and get off his chest everything that was in any way a hindrance to fellowship between himself and another member or between himself and the group, or the leader even, Jim in his utter honesty not desiring nor seeking immunity from the exposure of his own faults. We are reminded that catharsis is not a new approach to the solution of human problems, there being an old but seldom obeyed biblical injunction, “Confess your faults to one another and pray one for another that ye might be healed.”[10]

Catharsis meetings often involved fairly harsh punishments including violence. However, there were also positive methods of social reinforcement. Senior citizens were fully integrated into Temple life and played important roles in the organizations. Medical staff provided excellent medical care. Furthermore, the “communal living apartments, as well as state-licensed senior care homes, not only provided a source of income for the Temple and room and board for senior citizens but also offered a meaningful intergenerational experience for the society’s elders.”[11] The Temple also provided foster care and guardianship for children who had been otherwise discarded by society. Finally, members were encouraged to go communal by turning over paychecks and property to Peoples Temple in return for room and board, and a small allowance. Although this has been seen as a form of manipulation and control by many outsiders, to members of the Temple it was “the first step toward transforming self-centered, destructive, capitalist individuals into other-centered, constructive, family members.”[12]

Peoples Temple was an organization which sought to embody the ideals of the 1960s. The 1960’s were a tumultuous time full of hope, optimism, and a sense that individuals could change the world. At the end of the 60’s, when the Temple began to grow exponentially, the United States was facing a number of social and political reversals that left many people feeling disappointed. While much of the country was sending the message that one ought to give up on social change, Peoples Temple was still striving for it; while many progressive organizations were falling apart, the Temple was prospering. Peoples Temple offered hope for an integrated, equitable society, it allowed members to believe that they could be part of a solution to the immense problems facing the country, and it presented an opportunity to live out ideals with a community who shared them. As Allen J. Matusow explains, during “a few short years, optimism vanished, fundamental differences in values emerged to divide the country, social cohesion rapidly declined and the unraveling of America began.”[13] When the counter-cultural, social revolution era of the 1960s ended, many were primed for a message like the one of Peoples Temple.

Peoples Temple’s primary offer was a chance to be involved in something greater than one’s self. For members of all races, the communalist society was an answer to the displacement and isolation in many ways characteristic of United States society. Deborah Layton, a high ranking member who left Jonestown prior to Congressman Ryan’s visit,[14] describes how she became involved in Peoples Temple in her book Seductive Poison. Deborah, like many other young people in the 1960s, felt a deep desire to help the world coupled with a paralyzing sense of loneliness. A poem she wrote while in high school aptly captures these mixed emotions:

Once and for all I push away the cloud from my eyes.
I can see misery and pain all about me.
Suddenly I am where I began,
Still too weak to help the underprivileged of our world.
My responsibility and what am I doing?
Naught! [15]

It was this combination of feelings that led Deborah and many others to Peoples Temple. For her elderly mother, Lisa, who ultimately died in Jonestown, the Temple was attractive not only because it had helped her daughter mature and grow, but also because it “might be a safe place to make her own flight away from a life of frustration and sorrow.”[16] Lisa was born in Germany to non-religious, Jewish parents. In May of 1938, in order to escape the Nazis, Lisa left her family and friends for New York.[17] Deborah and her mother Lisa both joined Peoples Temple because it gave them an opportunity to be fully immersed in a community that emphasized the inherent worth of all people.

In Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, a documentary directed by Stanley Nelson, many former members describe their attraction to the Temple as being similar to Deborah Layton’s.[18] Bryan Kravitz remembered his decision to join Peoples Temple after he decided not to go to Vietnam and I was at the point of what am I going to do with myself. I listened to him, I was impressed by such an interracial group and people were really happy. I heard Jim Jones talking about equality among races, what its like living in entry and all of a sudden the answer was there.

Neva Sly Hargrave joined because Jones echoed her concerns: “What he spoke about were things that were in our hearts; the government was not taking care of the people, there were too many poor people out there, there were poor children.” For black members, Jones’ race did not serve as a deterrent. Juanell Smart recalled that, “[w]hen people heard Jim, they didn’t look on him as being a white preacher. People didn’t look at Jim as being white. He was not white, he was just their preacher.” Jones’ adopted, black son, Jim Jones Jr. agreed. “He talked black, he really understood it, he understood how it was to be treated differently.”

There were a number of social, political, and economic events that particularly influenced Peoples Temple. It should be noted that these events not only pushed people towards groups like the Temple, but also shaped much of the Temple’s psyche over the course of its existence.

The majority of Temple members were black and many joined because of the radical integration preached and practiced by Jim Jones. Of primary importance to delaying political action that would make equal treatment of blacks a lived reality was the capitalist structure of American society. Ergo, it is not surprising that Jones’ anti-capitalist message held substantial weight with those who believed in integration.

President Lyndon Johnson did not utilize Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights act in order to combat discriminatory employment practices “not because he was indifferent to fair employment, but because he would not antagonize corporations and unions.”[19] Despite the climb of some blacks into the lower middle class over the course of the 1960s, there “remained a vast black underclass. still mired in the decaying heart of the ghetto, primarily the blacks who … found themselves increasingly irrelevant in the complex modern economy.”[20] Generally, those who were in need of welfare were “relatively powerless individuals” left to “confront bureaucratic demands on their own.”[21] However, within Peoples Temple, cases were handled on a collective basis, thereby freeing individuals “from deferring to the often confusing and conflicting demands of external authorities. The individual received relief from the often degrading experience of being ‘processed’.”[22]

By the end of the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was coming to an end for a number of reasons. First, the Civil Rights Movement had “succeeded in achieving its legislative agenda.”[23] Second, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X deprived the movement of its primary leaders. Third, the Black Panther Party had been “effectively neutralized through police subversion and repression.”[24] Finally, the movement “simply ran out of steam” having “drained the energy and resources of the black community for some fifteen years.”[25]

In 1976, the California State Senate passed a resolution commending Jim Jones and Peoples Temple for their “steadfast support of the Constitution and encouragement of responsible citizenship” demonstrated by their support of organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Big Brothers of America, the Mendocino County Heart Association and others.[26] However, once defectors from the Temple began to share their stories it became apparent that Peoples Temple was building an alternative social order, and then the attacks began. One major attack came in August of 1977 in the form of an article in New West magazine by Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy. Peoples Temple members attempted to stop the article from being published, but in so doing increased the attention paid to it. On June 17th, 1977 New West reported a break-in which they believed to be the work of Temple members who were trying to destroy the article. Ultimately the police discovered that the supposed break-in was the work of a New West editor who had locked himself out, however, in the public imagination it was Temple members. This served to further sensationalize the article.

The article, “Inside Peoples Temple” certainly attacks Peoples Temple, but with no substantiated or truly disturbing claims.[27] The article relies entirely on the testimonies of ten defectors, none of whom make any particularly disturbing accusations against the Temple. One woman, Birdie Marable, left after the conditions on a Temple trip were too crowded, Elmer and Deanna Mertle left because of the physical punishments, three other members left because they felt the healings were not real and the other five left for various reasons involving finance. The authors themselves note that these defectors are not necessarily the most reliable source of information. “Obviously they all had their biases. So we checked the verifiable facts of their accounts – the property transfers, the nursing and foster home records, political campaign contributions and other matters of public record. The details of their stories checked out.”[28]

However, the accusations being made by the defectors were related to internal Temple dealings, none of which could have been verified by these records.[29] Moreover, although presented in such a way that one is left with a sense of unease, at their core the accusations against the Temple and Jones are primarily trivial. Kilduff and Tracy devote the last page of their article to a section entitled “Why Jim Jones Should Be Investigated.” Although there is brief mention of the physical punishment that Deanna and Elmer Mertle[30] cited as one of their reasons for leaving, the bulk of this section is dedicated to concerns about the “30 pieces of property. transferred from individuals to the temple during the years 1968 to 1976,” some of which where apparently “signed or recorded improperly.”[31] However, the improper recording is revealed to have little to do with the intention of the people who were deeding their houses to the Temple and more to do with minor clerical problems. The only clear, consistent accusation is that the Temple was attempting to be a communal organization, and it would seem that this was the most disturbing to the American psyche.

The New West article also served as one of the elements that brought the Concerned Relatives into existence. From 1976-1977 the Mills met informally with other ex-members including the Purifoy family, Joyce Shaw, and Grace Stoen. In 1977 the group became formalized because of the New West article and the arrival of Tim Stoen.[32] It was Tim Stoen’s legal genius that organized the Concerned Relatives “into a group that could mount an intensive and successful campaign against Jones and the Temple.”[33]

Prior to this attack, the Temple had already begun to consider a move to Guyana. In 1972, Lester Kinsolving began the first negative news article on Peoples Temple for the San Francisco Examiner. This article “attacked Jones’ messianic pretensions, his claims to have raised forty-three people from the dead, and began to explore the authoritarian structure of Peoples Temple.”[34] This was followed by the first significant defection of members in 1973 when eight Temple members left. This group, who later became known as the Eight Revolutionaries, left because they felt the Temple’s political action was not radical enough,

You said the revolutionary focal point at present is in the black people. There is no potential in the white population according to you. Yet where is the black leadership, where is the black staff and black attitude?[35]

After this first major defection Jones raised the possibility of revolutionary suicide as a way to avoid persecution, but it was instead decided that the Temple ought to move to Guyana.[36] In 1974 a small number of Temple members began clearing land in Guyana for what would eventually become Jonestown.

Fearing reprisal, following the publication of the New West article, Jim Jones decided that the migration to Guyana would be expedited and by the beginning of 1978 one thousand members had relocated.

Although the New West article served as one of the catalysts for the Temple’s relocation, the disenchantment with the United States ran deeper than that. In a response to the article, Peoples Temple states their belief that they are being attacked because of their concern for the welfare of the oppressed.

The charges made against us are an inevitable result of the success of the work the Temple is engaged in. We present the power of ordinary people to come together and “do for self.” We represent the antithesis of the profit/greed system that thrives on ruthless exploitation of the poor. We represent an answer that the real power-brokers do not want. Because if it succeeds, they fear that their power will be taken out of their hands and returned to the people.[37]

Given the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John F. Kennedy in preceding years, this belief on the behalf of Peoples Temple seems far from irrational. The move also reflected fears that the “IRS might freeze the Temple’s assets. that the results of a child custody battle might remove one of the children from the community. that a fascist takeover was imminent in the United States.”[38] Moreover, people believed that a better society awaited them in Jonestown.

Once relocated to Guyana, the Temple underwent a shift from a progressive, activist organization to a utopian community free from the sexism, racism, and classism inherent in American society. Nevertheless there were significant problems with the large influx of people into Jonestown. For example, there were only 50 houses built in 1977. Although this was impressive progress, it was hardly enough to accommodate the hundreds who were rapidly moving in.

Don Beck, one of the original settlers, described Jonestown in the beginning as “almost a paradise. Peaceful, beautiful, a place of mutual respect and support. Just working for yourself and your community. A good feeling. Safe. Safer in the tropical jungle than in the urban jungle.”[39]

Life in Jonestown was hard. The goal of building a self-sustaining community required long hours and immense commitment. The reports regarding the amount of food available to residents are mixed. Some, like Deborah Layton, claim that food was “woefully inadequate.”[40] whereas others, such as Odell Rhodes (a Jonestown resident who survived by fleeing into the jungle) say the opposite.[41] The diaries of Edith Roller indicate that although food was not abundant, neither was it inadequate. There were extensive farming and construction work, nightly meetings, and classes on socialism and Russian language. Sleep and relaxation were not plentiful.

Despite the harsh conditions in Jonestown many residents felt that the importance of what they were doing outweighed the hardship. In a letter home to her mother and father, Carolyn Moore Layton wrote, “It is interesting that with a simpler lifestyle people have more time for deep thinking and analysis than they do in a fast-paced urban setting and one can really feel like one is building something for a change.”[42] Another letter, from Pat Grunnet to Jonathan Kozol in September of 1978, states,

We’re free from the pointless, irrelevant public education there and into the practical, relevant process here. Seniors share their experiences under the slavery they have known with the kids who will never know those heartaches.[43]

Despite difficulties, it was not the material situation in Jonestown that led to the deaths in November of 1978.

The struggle between the Concerned Relatives and Peoples Temple “quickly overshadowed daily life in Jonestown.”[44] Within Jonestown there was a distinct feeling of persecution, a feeling that was by no means without merit. The Concerned Relatives succeeded in “arousing relatives and the general public to a powerful and emotional issue: whether people had been taken to Jonestown against their will, and, in the case of children, without permission of parents or guardians.”[45] Families of Temple members argued in some cases that they had granted permission for their children to go to Jonestown under the false pretense that the trip would last only two weeks. These charges were investigated by the San Francisco district attorney, who found that “in no case in which we had the name of such a child was the allegation borne out.”[46] Despite this finding, a number of families hired a private detective named Joe Mazor who promised he could return their loved ones. Mazor contacted U.S. embassy consul Richard McCoy in Georgetown to request checks on twelve children in Jonestown. McCoy visited Jonestown three separate times searching for signs of mistreatment and offering assistance in leaving Jonestown, each offer was rejected.[47]

The custody battle over John Victor Stoen was central to the sense of oppression and impending attack in Jonestown. John Victor was the son of Grace Stoen and Tim Stoen, however, when John Victor was two weeks old Tim signed an affidavit that he “was unable to sire a child himself, and that he had asked Jones to impregnate Grace Stoen.”[48] When Grace Stoen left Peoples Temple, she left John Victor with Tim, and when Tim defected, he left the boy in Jonestown. Although the affidavit was untrue, and Tim was in fact John Victor’s natural father, most Temple members believed that John Victor was Jones’ son. “The boy became a symbol for the community, and attempts to wrest him away from his Jonestown family were understood as part of a larger plot to break up other families and the community itself.”[49] After the bouncing back and forth between California and Guyana courts, a California court awarded Grace physical custody; this meant that should Jones return to California without John Victor, he would face arrest. Ultimately, John Victor died in Jonestown, but his parents succeeded in getting 100 members of Congress to contact the State Department regarding the custody case by January, 1978.[50]

Along with the custody battle over John Victor, the Concerned Relatives also launched a number of other lawsuits most of which “could be classified as nuisances rather than real threats,” but they were nevertheless viewed by Temple members and leaders as “evidence of a conspiracy against it, organized and led by one of its own: Tim Stoen.”[51]

Frustrated by the lack of progress, the Concerned Relatives began attempting to contact their loved ones in Jonestown through the embassy in Guyana. Unfortunately, “[e]fforts by relatives to talk with people at Jonestown and learn of their welfare through the embassy consul widened the gulf between the two opposed camps.”[52]

The media also played a key role in the persecution of Jonestown. One reporter, Kathy Hunter of the Ukiah Daily Journal traveled to Guyana to visit Jonestown, but was denied entry. Hunter claimed that “Temple members interrogated andthreatened her in Georgetown,” and that “Guyanese police posted a guard outside her hotel room.”[53] Hunter’s account is questionable at best, given that she also asserted that Guyana had a pro-Chinese government, indicated by a portrait of Mao Tse-Tung that she apparently saw on the wall in a Guyanese government building; the portrait that was actually that of Arthur Chung, the president of Guyana.[54] Despite her dubious credentials, Hunter’s article about Guyana and Jonestown was picked up by a number of news outlets. Hunter continued to write a series of stories critical of Peoples Temple. “Its dealings with Kathy Hunter proved to the Temple that it could not get a fair deal from the media,” a feeling that was further proved by “a major expose planned by the National Enquirer at the instigation of Tim Stoen.”[55] Gordon Lindsay, the reporter for the National Enquirer attempted to enlist the help of John and Barbara Moore, the parents of Carolyn and Annie Moore, in his article. John Moore, who talked to the reporter for an hour and a half, said that “the reporter repeatedly tried to put words into his mouth.”[56] Lindsay’s article claimed that Jones was “a mixture of ‘Moon and Manson'” – referring to Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon and a notorious murderer named Charles Manson – and included “salacious details about the Temple.”[57]

Public criticism of Peoples Temple increased. The first official appearance of the Concerned Relatives took place on April 11, 1978 when they delivered an “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones Against Our Children and Relatives at the Peoples Temple Jungle Encampment in Guyana, South America” to Temple members still in San Francisco.[58] This document accuses exclusively accuses Jones of human rights violations, one of which is:

Making the following threat calculated to cause alarm for the lives of our relatives: “I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that it is better even to die than to be constantly harassed from one continent to the next.”[59]

The document further alleged that Jonestown residents were “denied freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom to send and receive mail without censorship.” The relatives were attempting to “disconnect the leader from his people.” However this strategy was “bound to fail. because members of Peoples Temple felt a deep loyalty to Jones as well as to the movement. In addition they identified with Jones: what happened to him would happen to them.”[60] Therefore, the Concerned Relatives only served to further alienate their loved ones in Jonestown.

Jonestown and Peoples Temple attempted to respond to the attacks being leveled against them with logorrheic press releases rebutting charges by the Concerned Relatives, with “campaign mail” letters to the State Department and members of Congress, with well-argued essays by house intellectuals, with slurs about defectors “leaked” to the newspapers, with Freedom of Information Act requests to the government, and with court strategies to deal with the lawsuits.[61]

However, when the press did carry “Temple statements at all, they often focused on flamboyant assertions” so that the “hyperbolic style of the Temple press releases often overshadowed their content.”[62]

The New West article resulted in a number of investigations of the Temple, government “investigations … seemed to feed on one another as bureaucrats took up Kilduff and Tracy’s call for official inquiries.”[63] Public investigations “never translated into any significant criminal prosecution.” Indeed, even if “substantiated, abuses by Temple notary publics would amount to misdemeanors.”[64] However, Temple staff still sensed that there was more going on. Although the U.S. Treasury Department’s Customs Service, in response to a letter from Peoples Temple asking whether or not they were under investigation, denied “any activity in this Region of the Customs Service which would be in the nature of a ‘fishing expedition,'” this was simply untrue.[65] Responding to tips from members of the Concerned Relatives, seven Customs officials searched ninety Temple crates being shipped to Guyana on August 17, 1977 (they found nothing). Customs told Peoples Temple attorney Charles Garry that such searches were routine, although they were not. Customs Service informed Interpol which in turned informed the Guyana police that they suspected Peoples Temple of shipping weapons or unreported currency to Jonestown. The Guyana police showed a copy of the Interpol report to a Temple official which confirmed their belief that “defectors had met with a government agent.” Furthermore, the Interpol report “alluded to use of secret codes in Temple radio traffic. thus showing that Temple communications were being monitored.”[66] It is worth noting that the opponents of the Temple were “not above the sort of embellishment Jones practiced in his sermons, even in making allegations to government agents.”[67] The Interpol report confirmed for Jonestown leaders that they were indeed under attack by “a network of opposition that included defectors, reporters, and government agencies.”[68]

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the CIA was also involved in monitoring activities in Jonestown. “It is likely that several embassy staff. were CIA operatives” and since “the embassy knew of the visits Jonestown leaders had made to Communist embassies,” the CIA was “keenly aware of events in Jonestown.”[69] Aside from the CIA, the IRS began “investigating the Temple’s unrelated business income in the spring of 1977.”[70] If the IRS decided that proceeds from the Temple’s care facilities, property rentals, and nursing homes could be taxed, the amount of money that supported the community in Jonestown would be substantially diminished.[71]

By themselves, none of these threats would truly serve to dismantle the Jonestown community. Taken together, however, the threat was quite real. Although I have not addressed all the ways in which these threats were posed, Jonestown’s mode of communication, source of income, and ability to import goods were all being jeopardized. From within Jonestown, the future looked grim, and in their minds, “the existence of an organized opposition that had poisoned public opinion about the Temple and was attempting to dismantle the community in Jonestown was nothing less than a full-blown conspiracy.”[72] Overall, the Concerned Relatives’ campaign succeeded in winning in the court of public opinion and created “an atmosphere of fear and desperation in Jonestown.”[73] It is important to bear this in mind when considering Congressman Leo Ryan’s fateful visit.

The atmosphere and desperation in Jonestown resulted in an interest in relocating to a communist country, an obsession with loyalty, and an increased obsession with martyrdom. The interest to relocate to a communist country, in particular the Soviet Union, was demonstrated in the learning of Russian taking place as well as by documents discovered in Jonestown. Eugene Chaikin, a Temple member and legal advisor, wrote that, “So long as we have to cover our ass, so long as P.R. has priority over production, so long as we are not free to invest and use our money in [George]town, we will not make it here. Unfortunately, time is very much against us now.”[74]

The defections of Tim Stoen and Deborah Layton were both major blows to the Jonestown community. Discounting Jones himself, Stoen was the highest leader in the Temple, and the primary leader of the crusade against it. Layton had been one member responsible for the Temple’s finances, so after her defection the Temple had to change bank accounts. Both were traitors in the minds of Temple members. “It should not be surprising then, that an obsession with loyalty and hatred of defectors – real or potential – developed in Jonestown.”[75] Therefore, all who expressed any desire to return to the United States was seen as a potential threat to the entire community.

The rhetoric of martyrdom referred to revolutionary suicide rather than resistant violence because the community did not want to engage in conflict with the Guyanese who were black.[76] The ritual of White Nights, which had occurred in Ukiah and San Francisco, emerged in Jonestown with increased intensity. White Nights were called in response to perceived threats, and involved the entire community gathering in the central pavilion. During White Nights there were extensive discussions of what course of action ought to be taken in the face of varying scenarios. Hunger strikes and other forms of protest were discussed during these meetings, as was the idea of escaping further into the jungle. However, the idea of revolutionary suicide became increasingly prevalent. One woman said, “I don’t mind dying for the cause, because I believe in it,” a sentiment that seemed to be held by many, as indicated by the applause following this statement.[77] Other residents in Jonestown wrote letters to Jones expressing their interest in committing revolutionary suicide.[78]

For residents in Jonestown, Congressman Ryan’s visit was the culmination of the oppression they felt they had been experiencing at the hands of the United States. Ryan’s visit marked an American invasion of their constructed space. “People joined Peoples Temple and moved to Jonestown because they believed they could bring about a new society based on liberty, justice, and racial equality,” and just as “they viewed Jonestown as an ideal society, they also believed that the United States was corrupt.”[79]Congressman Ryan, a representative of all that was corrupt in the United States to Jonestown residents, announced his visit to Jim Jones on the first of November. Rather than requesting an invitation, Ryan simply declared that he would visit with Guyana government officials and then travel to Jonestown. This, combined with Ryan’s bringing of reporters and relatives, showed “a lack of impartiality” to the Jonestown residents. John Burke, the U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, reported to the Secretary of State that:

PT seemed convinced that Codel [Congressional Delegation] was hostile, would be arriving with well-developed prejudices against PT and merely wanted an on-the-spot visit to enable Codel to return to U.S. and reiterate prejudiced view of People’s Temple community with more authority than before. PT officials had apparently cited to [Guyana Ambassador Laurence] Mann coincident visit by NBC camera team as proof-positive of Codel’s bad faith.[80]

Jones announced the visit to the residents by stating “We may have the invasion, not with guns, but with hostile racists.”[81] Prior to Ryan’s visit, 800 community members signed a document stating that they did not wish to see any of those in Ryan’s delegation.

Despite the impending visit, Jonestown continued to look into the future; the “basketball team was looking forward to its scheduled match in Georgetown” and the “Jonestown Express, the community’s showcase musical group, was rehearsing for an upcoming concert in Georgetown.”[82] It would seem that the final decision to die had not yet been made.

Congressman Ryan, his aides, members of the Concerned Relatives, and an NBC news team arrived in Guyana on Wednesday morning November 15, 1978. On Friday the 17th, they flew to the Port Kaituma airstrip, six miles from Jonestown, where they were told that the media and relatives would not be allowed to enter. Ryan, his aide Jackie Speier, and an Information Officer from Guyana, were given a tour by Marceline Jones before meeting with Jim Jones himself. During the meeting, Jones was convinced that allowing the press in would do more good than harm, and so they were allowed to enter, along with the Concerned Relatives delegation.

The Jonestown leaders had attempted to prepare for the visit. Jones announced “that everyone should behave so that the Ryan party could visit without incident and leave as soon as possible.”[83] Initially the visit went fairly smoothly; dinner was served (an upgraded version), there was a performance of the program Jonestown was planning to put on in Georgetown, and Ryan himself gave a speech. Ryan said, “From what I have seen there are some people here who believe this is the best thing that has happened in their lives.” Following this statement the Jonestown community erupted into a prolonged bout of cheering.

Vernon Gosney and Monica Bagby, two residents who wanted to leave, slipped a note to NBC reporter Don Harris that said “Help us get out of Jonestown.” While reporters were interviewing Jones, Ryan mingled with the crowd and asked Gosney if he wanted to leave. Gosney replied affirmatively, but also warned Ryan that his life was in danger. The next morning, November 18th, the reporters returned after having spent the night discussing the note. On the tour given by Marceline Jones, the reporters became aggressive in their demands to see the inside of the cabins. While this was going on, the Parks and Bogue families disclosed their desire to leave with Ryan. Although Jones tried to talk them in to staying, they left with Ryan and the reporters. Larry Layton also left with Ryan, although he was not truly interested in defecting. Ryan planned to stay in Jonestown in order to ensure the safety of any other who wanted to leave, but Don Sly attacked him with a knife, and so he decided to leave. The defectors, Layton, the newsmen, Ryan and his aides all waited at the Port Kaituma airstrip. While they waited, a tractor pulling a trailer drove to the far end of the airstrip. In the trailer were gunmen who opened fire as those on the airstrip attempted to board the plane. Richard Dwyer, who was with Congressman Ryan, and survived, described the attacks:

The firing continued for several minutes and then there was a short pause before the firing recommenced. It seemed to me that one or more of the assailants with shotguns was proceeding amongst the wounded, firing a blast at each of them. the truck and tractor were heard to drive away and after a few moments those who had not been wounded and the ambulatory wounded began to get to their feet. I went over to the Congressman, who had been badly hit. It was clear he was dead.[84]

Five people were killed on the airstrip: Leo Ryan; Bob Brown, an NBC cameraman; Don Harris, an NBC reporter; Greg Robinson, a photographer from the San Francisco Examiner; and Patricia Parks, a defector who was shot as she attempted to board the plane. Ryan’s aide, Jackie Speier was shot four times at point-blank range, but survived. Larry Layton also began shooting inside the airplane once the firing outside began, but after he wounded two people, his gun jammed, and Dale Parks disarmed him.

Back in Jonestown, the entire community gathered at the pavilion.[85] There is an audio recording of the meeting that night. Jones reported to the group that someone was going to shoot the pilot of one of the planes which, he predicted, will lead to a full scale invasion of the community. Jones asked for any dissenting opinions, but only Christine Miller raised any objection. Miller, a sixty-year-old black woman, asked Jones if going to Russia was still an option, but Jones replied that they would no longer be accepted into Russia because of the stigma they would acquire following the deaths of the congressman and others. Miller argued with Jones for some time, but was ultimately shouted down by the rest of the group. Interestingly enough, it seemed that Jones was encouraging Miller’s dissension.

One of the surviving eye witnesses, Odell Rhodes, recalled that two nurses brought out the vat of Flavor-Aid and cyanide. Rhodes then described how one woman, Ruletta Paul, walked up to the vat with her infant:

She just poured it down the baby’s throat. And then she took the rest herself. It didn’t take them right away. She had time to walk down outside. I watched her go, and the next woman, Michelle Wilson, she came up with her baby and did the same thing.[86]

Even as some were dying, others can be heard on the tape stepping up to the microphone, expressing their own commitment to the revolutionary suicide. One man can be heard saying, “We’re all ready to go. If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready – at least the rest of the sisters and brothers are with me.” A woman stood and says,

I’ve been here ah, one year and nine months. And I never felt better in my life. Not in San Francisco, but until I came to Jonestown. I had a very good life. I had a beautiful life. And I don’t see nothing that I could be sorry about. We should be happy. At least I am. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Another man thanked Jones for giving them life and giving them death. The tape drags on and in the background one can hear the noise of the crying children. The tape ends as the adults began to take the poison.

Odell Rhodes escaped by pretending to go retrieve a stethoscope for a doctor. Stanley Clayton also survived, after watching his girlfriend and her family die, by pretending he was going to say goodbye to friends on the other side of the pavilion and escaping from there. Tim Carter, his brother Mike, and Mike Prokes also survived. All three of them witnessed the deaths before they were sent away with guns and suitcases filled with cash; they were meant to go to the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown, but were detained in Port Kaituma. Two Temple attorneys, Mark Lane and Charles Garry also survived by promising a guard that they would stay alive and tell the truth about Jonestown. Only two people in Jonestown were killed by gunshot: Jim Jones and Annie Moore. Four other Peoples Temple members died later that day when the message, pre-determined in order to inform those not at Jonestown when it was time to die, reached Sharon Amos. Amos, who was at Lamaha Gardens, took her three children with her into the bathroom and slit the two younger children’s throats, and then she and her older daughter slit each other’s throats. Jones also issued the message to the Temple members at the San Francisco Temple, but Stephan Jones – Jones’ biological son – who was on the basketball team in Georgetown, quickly sent a message urging them not to proceed.

Over 900 people died in Jonestown, leaving behind only three suicide notes. Tish Leroy, a 48-year-old white woman, wrote

I see no way
out- I agree
with your decision-
I fear only that
without you the
world may not make it
to communism- Tish
For my part- I
am more than
tired of this
wretched, merciless
planet & the hell
it holds for so many masses of
beautiful people-
Thank you for the only life I’ve ever known[87]

Annie Moore wrote:

I am 24 years of age right now and don’t expect to live through the end of this book.

I thought I should at least make some attempt to let the world know what Jim Jones and Peoples Temple is – OR WAS – all about.

It seems that some people and perhaps the majority of people would like to destroy the best thing that ever happened to the 1,200 or so of us who have followed Jim. I am at a point right now sow embittered against the world that I don’t know why I am writing this. Where can I begin – JONESTOWN – the most peaceful, loving community that ever existed. JIM JONES – the one who made this paradise possible – much to the contrary of the lies stated about Jim Jones being a power-hungry, sadistic, mean person. I want you to read this and know Jim was the most honest, loving, caring, concerned person whom I ever met and knew.

Jim Jones showed us all this – that we could live together with our differences, that we are all the same human beings. Luckily, we are more fortunate than the starving babies of Ethiopia, than the starving babies in the United States,

What a beautiful place this was. The children loved the jungle, learned about animals and plants. There were no cars to run over them; no child-molesters to molest them; nobody to hurt them. They were the freest, most intelligent children I had ever known.

We died because you would not let us live in peace.[88]

The final note, though unsigned, is presumed to have been written by Richard Tropp, it was entitled “The Last Day of Peoples Temple” and addressed “To Whomever Finds This Note”:

Collect all the tapes, all the writing, all the history. The story of this movement, this action, must be examined over and over. It must be understood in all of its incredible dimensions. Words fail. We have pledged our lives to this great cause. We are proud to have something to die for. We do not fear death. We hope the world will someday realize the ideals of brotherhood, justice and equality that Jim Jones has lived and died for. We have all chosen to die for this cause. We know there is no way we can avoid misinterpretation. But Jim Jones and this movement were born too soon. The world was not ready to let us live

I am sorry there is no eloquence as I write these final words. We are resolved, but grieved that we cannot make the truth of our witness clear.

This is the last day of our lives. May the world find a way to a new birth of social justice. If there is any way that our lives and the life of Jim Jones can ever help that take place, we will not have lived in vain.

Please try to understand. Lot at all. Look at all in perspective. Look at Jonestown, see what we have tried to do. This was a monument to life, to the renewal of the human spirit, broken by capitalism, by a system of exploitation & injustice. Look at all that was built by a beleaguered people. We did not want this kind of ending – we wanted to live, to shine, to bring light to a world that is dying for a little bit of love. To those left behind of our loved ones, many of whom will not understand, who never knew this truth, grieve not, we are grateful for this opportunity to bear witness – a bitter witness – history has chosen our destiny in spite of our own desires to forge our own. We were at a cross purpose with history. But we are calm in this hour of our collective leave taking. If nobody understands, it matters not. I am ready to die now. Darkness settles over Jonestown on its last day on earth.[89]

From these notes, and the tape of the final hours, is it clear that a substantial portion of Jonestown residents did intentionally lay down their lives. The question that must be answered in order to examine anything else is, how could sane people do this?

Emilé Durkheim notes that there are sometimes “periods in history when, under the influence of some great collective shock, social interactions have become much more frequent and active.”[90] The 1960’s clearly seems to be one such period. Fractured by the dissolution of the values of the 1960s, people turned to Jim Jones because he addressed the concerns of racism, sexism, and capitalism that plagued them. Given the shock to American culture of the Vietnam War, the explosion of racial tensions, and the upheaval of the political system, individuals were looking for new ways to make meaning of the world. The United States’ capitalist system encourages competition and individualism, so Peoples Temple provided the welcome alternative of communalism. Many of the communities that one traditionally used to define oneself had been eroded. New communities became necessary.

Once members became involved in the intensified social actions of Peoples Temple, the role of societal morality began to figure in the consciousness of the individual. As the moral or ideal plays a greater role, so too does the need to make sense of its force.

Durkheim constitutes the totem as the representation in ones mind of the “collective and anonymous force of the clan.”[91] The totem is the concrete object upon which “sentiments experienced fix themselves”; it is the object by which “the emotions experienced are perpetually sustained and revived,” and it is the seeming source for everything that happens.[92] Traditionally, totems are either animals or inanimate objects; however I contend that the personhood of Jim Jones served as a totem for Peoples Temple. I also believe Jim Jones became increasingly important as a totem of Peoples Temple. Jones was understood as the manifestation of the ideal of the group. In one Peoples Temple publication, “A True Follower of This Activist Christian Ministry,”[93] the ideals of the movement are laid out in such a way that Jones is constructed as their embodiment. It could even be further said that, by presenting Jones as an incarnation of Jesus, he serves as a totem of the Christ.

Jim Jones was central to Peoples Temple, not only because he was the founder of the church and the head pastor, he was primarily important as a prophet. According to Max Weber, the prophet is an “individual bearer of charisma, who by virtue of his mission proclaims a religious doctrine or divine commandment.”[94] The prophet’s authority is exclusively the result of his or her personal revelation and charisma. The prophet’s primary goal is the declaration of said doctrine or commandment, but in order to legitimate his or her authority, the prophet frequently uses magic, such as healings and divination. Weber notes that a prophet rarely succeeds in “establishing his authority without charismatic authentication, which in practice meant magic.”[95] Jones’ primary goal was to create a world in which discrimination no longer existed and all people were equal. However, in order to gain the power needed to create such a world, he convinced people that he was able to heal the sick, see the future, and read minds. Jones once explained the magical shows in services to Deborah Layton, saying that it was necessary, “so that I can bring them forward to the message that is so important for all of us today and that is activism … I need to speak on each person’s level.”[96]

As both totem and prophet, Jones is not significant as an individual human, but as a symbolic figure of the movement. Jones was constructed by the society of Peoples Temple as a salvific god and, therefore, as a manifestation of the group. The passion with which Peoples Temple members were loyal to Jones is then, essentially, the same as their loyalty to one another and even themselves. When individuals participate in such movements, “the passions moving them are of such an intensity that they cannot be satisfied except by violent and unrestrained action.”[97]

The collective suicidal impulse of Peoples Temple arose from a number of interacting factors, not the least of which was the United States’ invasion of their space. David Chidester argues that the civil space of the United States was disrupted during the 1960’s and 70’s, thereby leading “alternative religious movements that emerged” during that period to either establish “a place within American society by appropriating the symbols of the ‘center in here’ and claiming them as their own” or to direct their attention to “powerful, sacred symbols of a “center out there,’ beyond the territorial boundaries of the United States.”[98] Peoples Temple opted for the “center out there” model, similar to American Catholics, Jews, and the National of Islam. For many groups who chose to locate their sacred geographic center outside the space of the United States, the “civil space of American society may be experienced as an oppressive space in which the group occupies a position of ‘existential outsideness,’ while the group itself may be perceived, or may perceive itself, as a subversive space.”[99] Peoples Temple’s migration to Guyana therefore may be understood as a pilgrimage out from the oppressive, polluted, prison like space of the United States.

Catherine Wessinger, a Religious Studies professor at Loyola University, describes “catastrophic millennialists” as groups who “expect far-reaching changes to come after a major catastrophe or series of disasters” and those that “anticipate gradual change and expect improvements to arrive step-by-step over long period of time” as “progressive millennialists.”[100] Members of Peoples Temple were progressive millennialists in that they believed that through their move to Jonestown, they could create a new, just society. However, they were catastrophic millennialists in that they expected that the United States would become a fascist dictatorship in which African Americans and those who supported them to be arrested tortured, and killed.[101] Wessinger notes that

If members of a catastrophic millennial group perceive themselves as being persecuted by outside cultural opponents, and furthermore, perceive that they are failing to achieve their ultimate concern, this will be a group that is likely to commit violent acts in order to preserve its ultimate concern.[102]

The attacks aimed at Jim Jones were designed to minimize the alienation of Peoples Temple members, but an attack on Jones was in many ways an attack on the group’s ultimate concern.

The collective suicidal impulse of the group served a number of functions for the group as a whole. In his work Suicide, Durkheim presents altruistic suicide as one ideal-type. Durkheim notes that just as “excessive individuation leads to suicide, insufficient individuation has the same effects.”[103] From the expressions of individuals as they died, it seems clear that the individual body was insignificant in comparison to the communal body. This was also demonstrated by some of those who survived the final White Night. Mike Prokes, who survived Jonestown, called a press conference on March 13, 1979 in a motel room in Modesto, California, during which he announced “I can’t disassociate myself from the people who died, nor do I want to. The people weren’t brainwashed fanatics or cultists; the Temple was not a cult.” He then went into the bathroom and shot himself in the head.[104] Bea Orsot, another survivor who had been in Georgetown for a dental appointment when the deaths occurred, stated in an interview a year after the Jonestown event that her eight years with Peoples Temple and one year in Jonestown had been the happiest of her life. “If I had been there, I would have been the first one to stand in that line and take that poison and I would have been proud to take it,” she said. She wished she could have died with her community, “I wanted to die with my friends. I wanted to do whatever they wanted to do – be alive or dead.”[105] Durkheim notes that in order for “the individual to occupy so little place in collective life, he must be almost completely absorbed in the group and. very highly integrated.”[106]

Altruistic suicide occurs when the ego is no longer the property of the individual, but the property of the collective whole, where it is “blended with something not itself, where the goal of conduct is exterior to itself, that is, in one of the groups in which it participates.”[107] In this mode, suicide is either “imposed by society as a duty, or some question of honor was involved. But it even happens that the individual kills himself purely for the joy of sacrifice, because. renunciation in itself is considered praiseworthy.”[108] The martyrdom that was presented in Jonestown constructed the death as an opportunity for “the individual … to strip himself of his personal being in order to be engulfed in something which he regards as his true essence. he feels that he exists in it. and strives so violently to blend himself with it in order to have being.”[109] This is congruent with the idea presented by David Chidester that part of Peoples Temple’s appeal to the poor, the elderly, blacks, and women was that it offered them an opportunity to be recognized as fully human.

From the beginning of Peoples Temple, there was an emphasis on what Chidester identifies as the subclassification of people in American society. Jones argued that this subclassification was legitimated by the King James Bible. “The classification of persons in the worldview of Peoples Temple responded to the prevalent experience of subclassification in America shared by blacks, Indians, Mexicans, women, and the poor.”[110] Peoples Temple located a space of human potential that promised to be realized through socialism. That was a space filled with the inherent goodness of human nature, the healing of mind, body, and social relations, and a humanitarian ethic of reciprocal sharing, concern and service to others. This was what it meant to be a fully human person within the Peoples Temple.[111]

Thus, reintroduction into the polluted space of the United States would have meant an entrance into a space where many members felt they would be systematically sub-humanized. The communal suicide offered an opportunity for what was understood as a fully human death.

The deaths in Jonestown quickly attained a prominent position if the American consciousness. By February, 1978, 98% of Americans had heard of the Jonestown tragedy according to a Gallup Poll.[112] Despite this extremely high level of awareness, the news stories produced in the aftermath were far from factual or impartial.

Hall claims that the mass media attention in Jonestown created myths which has left historical analysis with the burden of wading through those myths. Hall argues that, in

the case of Jonestown there is not a compelling cultural demand to know. the causes of the deaths. The horror could never be understood in historical terms, for history has an uneven relation to the moral distinction between good and evil. Thus, the task of myth is to close the curtain on a tragedy steeped in stigma so as to reaffirm the normal social world.[113]

However, it was not only myth that was necessary to reaffirm the normal social order.

Both the Guyanese and United States governments attempted to distance themselves from Jonestown. A Guyanese Public Health Officer, along with two American medical officers, recommended that the bodies be buried on site in Jonestown, but the Guyanese government would not allow it and insisted that the bodies be removed from Guyana as soon as possible.[114] The transportation of the bodies was undertaken by the United States military. The bodies were transported from Jonestown to Georgetown and on to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Maryland. The bodies remained at the base while relatives attempted to retrieve their loved ones’ remains “from a government who seemed indifferent to their grief. Some bodies never could be identified, and some people of Jonestown had no concerned relatives willing to claim their bodies.”[115] Although in many cases no one was willing to pay for the burial of the Jonestown community, regarding the Temples “fantastic monetary assets” there was “no shortage of claimants.”[116] These claimants appeared before the dead had even been buried.

Walter and Charlotte Baldwin, Marcie Jones’ parents, attempted to bury Jim and Marcie at the Earlham Cemetery, in Richmond Indiana, but the town of Richmond would not allow it. Jim was cremated, his ashes spread at sea.

The competition between a variety of interest groups “for control of in the initial aftermath. resulted in the dehumanization of the dead.”[117] Government agencies, surviving Peoples Temple members, families, religious associations, the media, and so-called cult experts all attempted to control the construction of the Jonestown narrative. Family members and surviving Temple members were attempting to deal with their grief and bury the dead. Religious organizations were anxious to emphasize the “differences between good religion and bad religion” although the “voices heard loudest in the media belonged to critics of non-traditional religions.”[118] The media descended on Jonestown in droves and news coverage tended to focus on the sensational: Jones’ sexual history, the modes of punishment used in Peoples Temple, the specifics of how the death took place. News outlets looked to “cult experts – and only to cult experts – for analysis. These experts knew next to nothing about Peoples Temple, and exaggerated the differences between Temple members and ordinary members of society.”[119]

The efforts to demonize the Jonestown dead were part of a ritual of exclusion, as Chidester calls it. In The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Durkheim discusses the positive cult in contrast to the negative cult. By classifying Peoples Temple as a negative cult in contrast with itself, society establishes itself as the positive cult. Durkheim argues that it through the rejection of the negative cult that an individual enters into the positive cult.[120] However, this “symbolic differentiation cannot be. accomplished when what is socially defined as evil emerges within the sanctified centers of a culture.”[121] Therefore, a mad dash by Guyanese officials, the American embassy officers, the Disciples of Christ, and elected officials in California to distance themselves from Peoples Temple ensued.

Jones and his movement were defined as evil because of their goal, as much as the methods used to achieve it. There was “a particular ideological judgment about the relative values of communal versus individualist approaches to life.”[122] There was also a focus on Temple methods: healings, intimidation, punishment, worship of a prophet, political manipulations, and public relations. But, “this auto-da-fe can proceed only by the device of projecting onto Jones the burden of carrying evils that are widespread and sometimes institutionalized practices in the wider society.”[123]

The effort to demonize Jones and his followers was evidenced in the treatment of the bodies at the Dover Air Base as well. U.S. officials claimed that no U.S. entity was responsible for doing autopsies of those who had died abroad, but as Rebecca Moore notes following an airplane crash in the Canary Islands where American citizens had died, the bodies had been shipped to Dover where autopsies and identification had taken place. Rather than engaging in careful autopsies, the forensic scientists at Dover conducted autopsies on Jim Jones at the request of the U.S. government, and Laurence Schacht, Maria Katsaris, Carolyn Layton, and Ann Moore, at the request of the families. Only two other bodies were autopsied at random from the remaining 909 Temple members.[124] According to Dr. Cyril Wecht, Past President of the American College of Forensic Sciences, the deaths in Jonestown “failed to arouse the sensitive interests and pragmatic concern of the people in charge because the victims were perceived as ‘cultists.’ The unspoken attitude was something like: ‘what did you expect from such lunatics?’ ‘they got what they deserved.'”[125]

The rejection of the bodies of Jonestown residents was part of an American process during the late 70’s. This process was one in which black Americans who attempted to attain equal status – not just equal opportunity – were rejected by society at large. Although Jones was its leader, Peoples Temple was constituted by the individuals who gave it life. Those individuals were primarily black and searching for a real alternative to the economic and social oppression they experienced in the United States. Peoples Temple was attempting to point out that racism was entrenched in the economic policies of the United States. By going communal, Peoples Temple members in many ways addressed the enduring cause of racial discrepancies: differences in accumulated wealth. The attack on capitalism made by Peoples Temple was an attack on the civil religion of America.

There is no evidence of an orchestrated effort to prevent the message of Peoples Temple from being communicated. I don’t believe that the bodies were consciously mistreated in a grand conspiracy to keep Jonestown residents silent. Rather I think it was the response of a country which, when potentially confronted with its own immorality, opted to shift the blame. As Charles Silberman, in his book Crisis in Black and White, stated:

The tragedy of race relations in the United States is that there is no American dilemma White Americans are not torn and tortured by the conflict between their devotion to the American creed and their actual behavior. They are upset by the current state of race relations, to be sure. But what troubles them is not that justice is being denied, but that their peaces is being shattered and their business interrupted.[126]

Had the American involvement in the Jonestown deaths dominated the news in 1978, perhaps the Jonestown events might have served as a wake-up call regarding the inequities of capitalism. However, part of effectively maintaining a capitalist society is the continued belief that the system is inherently just, that those who opt to leave it are crazy, and that those who fail within it failed themselves. As Ernest van den Haag states, “people will tolerate a social or economic system. only if they perceive it as just.”[127]

The race riots that followed the Civil Right era were used as justification for white flight from American cities. Although these riots reflected the enduring oppression of black people, they were constructed in the white psyche as self-destructive, insane acts which allowed white people to comfortably distance themselves from black people. The deaths in Jonestown were constructed and treated in much the same way: as depraved, crazy acts. Therefore, no serious consideration was given to the notion that Peoples Temple’s fate was reflective of the larger injustices of American society.

In 1935, following a riot in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed a biracial commission to study its causes. The commission’s report, The Negro Problem in Harlem: A Report on the Social and Economic Conditions Responsible for the Outbreak of March 19, 1935, noted that the riot was caused primarily by economic factors, particularly the poor job opportunities available to blacks.[128] However, “white society, including the academic establishment and the liberal foundations, were not ready to contemplate, much less embrace, the simple truths enunciated” in the report, and so its policy recommendations were largely ignored.[129]

In 1968 the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Report was published. This commission was appointed by President Johnson as a response to the riots that began in Newark and Detroit. The Kerner Report found that “white racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.”[130] Similar to the 1935 report, the Kerner Report’s policy recommendations were primarily focused on job creation. Although the Kerner Report received wider circulation, it never “became the basis for legislative action or other public policy initiatives.”[131]

Throughout the 1960s there was an outpouring of publications that sought to confront white American society with its culpability in the situation of black people. Unfortunately, as quickly as this period began, it was repressed. In his book, Racial Oppression in America, a collection of essays, Robert Blauner presents a new paradigm with which to consider the situation of black Americans. Blauner presented African Americans are an internal colony and the riots as forms of revolt.[132] His “colonial model” did away with notions that the oppression of African Americans was comparable to the oppression of other immigrant populations and “portrayed blacks as a minority of a different kind: a permanent minority, an oppressed people, a ‘colonized group.'”[133]

Blauner’s model challenged many of the basic assumptions of liberals and called for an entirely new method for eradicating racial difference in the United States. However, it did not take long for Blauner to be contested. Nathan Glazer published an essay in which he rejected Blauner’s colonial model and once again shifted the blame for the black situation in American back to blacks themselves. Glazer claimed that racial ghettos “are not a product of institutionalized racism, but merely an expression of ethnic cohesion and voluntary self-segregation”; that blacks have not had enough time in northern cities for the process of “mobility and assimilation to play itself out”; that the lack of black economic and political control over their own communities is reflective of the “economic enterprise that was lacking among blacks”; and that “much of the blame for economic stagnation has to do with blacks themselves, specifically with cultural deficiencies that prevent them from following the footsteps of earlier waves of immigrants.”[134] Glazer’s 1971 refutation of Blauner’s argument marked the beginning of the academic backlash against scholarship that places the burden of black oppression on the doorstep of white America.

Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election largely because of his Southern strategy that appealed to white backlash. Following his election, Nixon “lost no time in turning the clock back on the civil rights revolution.”[135] Nixon shifted “responsibility for school desegregation to the federal judiciary, and then nominated two Southerners with pro-segregationist records to the Supreme Court,” and allowed the Justice Depart to work with the FBI “in a covert war against the Black Panther Party.”[136] However, Nixon also laid the groundwork for affirmative action through his expansion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, resolution of the AT&T-EEO Consent Decree, and resurrection of the Philadelphia Plan. These policies were not part of a “preconceived design” but were “a byproduct of a series of administrative decisions and compromises that, in their net effect, formed the basis for affirmative action as we know it.”[137] These policies were essentially the compromises of the political establishment that were necessary to maintain order.[138]

The white withdrawal from racial issues was the result of a number of factors. Once desegregation came to Northern cities, whites realized that “the Negro was not just an abstraction, and not just a Southern problem.”[139] Furthermore, in 1965, when notions of reparations and compensation began to present themselves in political discourse, “white liberals were beginning to display their disquiet with this troublesome turn of events.”[140] The realization that legislative change was not sufficient to achieve equality for black Americans came in the wake of the riots in the Watts neighborhood of los Angeles in 1965, although these ideas had existed before its outbreak.

In 1965, “equality of opportunity – in name at least – had been achieved” and it was following this period that “an overt phase of racial oppression ended in the United States and was replaced by economic subordination.”[141] This economic subordination was based on a lack of equality of condition, something that reparations and compensation were designed to combat. However, “white state and corporate power is the product in part of black powerlessness” and the “income mobility for the few is rooted in the income stasis for the many.”[142] Therefore, the true equalizing of condition would result in an upheaval of the economic status quo. Liberal whites also retreated from race by claiming that “America is too racist to support programs targeted specifically for blacks, especially if these involve any form of preference. highlighting racial issues, therefore, only serves to drive a wedge in the liberal coalition. and is ultimately self defeating.”[143]

Following the Watts riots in California, Governor Brown appointed a commission to investigate its causes. This commission, known as the McCone Commission, released a report that characterized the riots as the meaningless outburst of marginalized people. The report claimed that the rioters were marginal people. because they were a small and unrepresentative fraction of the Negro population, namely, the unemployed, ill-educated, juvenile, delinquent, and uprooted. What provoked them to riot were not conditions endemic to Negro ghettos. but rather problems peculiar to immigrant groups. and irresponsible agitation by Negro leaders.[144]

This report was, of course, factually incorrect. This report, however, was so incorrect because it was a reflection of typical white attitude towards riots of this type. Critics of the McCone Commission examined the reasons for the inaccuracies of the report and found that the “commissioners were not altogether unsympathetic to the plight of Negroes in the south central ghetto, nor were they unintelligent or irresponsible.” Instead they were “representative of upper-middle-class whites in Los Angeles and other American cities.”[145] As such, they brought with them “assorted preconceptions about violence, law enforcement, ghettos, and slums, preconceptions which they shared with others of their class and race,” it was these preconceptions that allowed them to “draw conclusions based on the flimsiest material while ignoring the more substantial but less reassuring data.”[146]

The violence of the race riots allowed whites to distance themselves from American blacks. Over and over again white Americans were presented with evidence that racial oppression was inextricably linked to economic oppression. The only moments that whites were interested in examining this data was in the face of violent black uprisings. Then the changes made were aimed at merely placating urban blacks, rather than to attempting any substantial change.

Today substantial differences in opportunities available to whites and those available to people of color persist. The educational system of the United States is arguably as segregated today as it was prior to legislative reform.[147] These inequalities are based, on a system of segregation by race, poverty, and, increasingly, language, in which most black and Latino students never receive similar opportunities, similar peer groups, or any real chance to connect with and learn how to operate comfortably in middle class white institutions and networks. Many are in high schools where there is no real path to college because there are not enough teachers credentialed and experienced in key subjects and not enough fellow students ready to enroll in strong pre-collegiate courses taught at an appropriate level. For those students, there is no way to get the right preparation in their school regardless of their personal talent and motivation.[148]

In his article “Education and Crime,” Lance Lochner articulates how “an increase in educational attainment significantly reduces subsequent violent and property crime yielding sizeable social benefits.”[149]Is it any wonder then that gang membership balloons and violent crimes increase among populations who are systematically disenfranchised and dehumanized? According the US Bureau of Census from 1977-1995, The United States increased the prison budget by 823% but only increased spending on higher education by 374%. So rather than attempt to improve educational opportunities, the United States pours money into the prison systems, in essence, expecting those who have been disenfranchised by the American system to pay for their own abuse. This system brings to mind the infamous Kristallnacht, after which Jews were billed for the destruction of their own property. Of course, the problem here is more complicated, but the essential contradiction is the same. Prisons are disproportionately populated by people of color, yet rather than confronting the fact that this is because of the difference in opportunity presented to them, American society supports prisons in order to maintain the illusion that disenfranchised people are disenfranchised because of their own criminal inclinations rather than the situation handed to them. Furthermore, the imprisonment of those whom the American system has failed allows those who benefit from the oppression of poor people, and people of color, to feel justified.

Although dominant American society seems to expect those they oppress to involve themselves in positive organizations, those organizations are only acceptable insofar as they adhere to greater societal norms. Organizations of oppressed people that build solidarity across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines by their very nature threaten the status quo and are therefore treated with suspicion and contempt.

Peoples Temple, an organization which sought to connect and equalize people regardless of race or economic status was thus treated with hostility. Initially, the Temple was acceptable to society at large because it appeared to be operating within the prescribed social order; however, once it became clear that it was in fact reconstituting what it means to be human, it was no longer acceptable and was attacked with increasing ferocity.

Work Cited

Chidester, David. Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1988. Print.

Conley, Dalton. Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1999. Print.

Durkheim, Émile. On Morality and Society. Ed. Robert N. Bellah. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1973. Print.

—, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free, 1965. Print.

—, On Suicide. London: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Fenn, Richard K. The Blackwell Companion to Sociology of Religion. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2001. Print.

Fogelson, Robert M. “White on Black: A Critique of the McCone Commission Report on the Los Angeles Riots.” Political Science Quarterly 82.3 (1967): 337-67. Print.

Eight Revolutionaries Letter to Jim Jones. 1973. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.

Hall, John R. Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1987. Print.

Isserman, Maurice, and Michael Kazin. America Divided: the Civil War of the 1960s. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

Jones, Jim, and Edith Roller, perfs. San Francisco Sermon. 1970s. Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project . Transcript, Q1024.

Kilduff, Marshall, and Phil Tracy. “Inside Peoples Temple.” New West. 1 Aug. 1977: 30-38.

Layton, Deborah. Seductive Poison: a Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple. New York: Anchor, 1998. Print.

Lochner, Lance. “Education and Crime.” 2007. University of Western Ontario, London, ON. MS.

Marable, Manning. How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy and Society. Boston: South End Press, 1983. Print.

Matusow, Allen J. The Unraveling of America: a History of Liberalism in the 1960s. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.

Mills, Jeannie. Six Years with G-d: Life inside Reverend Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple. New York: A & W, 1979. Print.

Moore, Rebecca. Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009. Print.

Moore, Rebecca, Anthony B. Pinn, and Mary R. Sawyer. Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2004. Print.

Nelson, Stanley, dir. Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. Writ. Marcia Smith and Noland Walker. DVD. American Experience, 2006.

Orfield, Gary. Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge. Rep. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, 2009. Print.

Reiterman, Tim, and John Jacobs. Raven: the Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People. New York: Dutton, 1982. Print.

Steinberg, Stephen. Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. Print.

Stephenson, Denice. Dear People: Remembering Jonestown: Selections from the Peoples Temple Collection at the California Historical Society. San Francisco: California Historical Society, 2005. Print.

Weber, Max. On Charisma and Institution Building: Selected Papers. Ed. S. N. Eisenstadt. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1968. Print.

—, The Sociology of Religion. Boston: Beacon, 1963. Print.



[1] Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs, Raven: the Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (New York: Dutton 1982) 156.

[2] David Chidester, Salvation and Suicide: an Interpretation of Jim Jones, Peoples Temple, and Jonestown (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988) 6.

[3] Rebecca Moore, et al., Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 2004) 97.

[4] Jim Jones, The Letter Killeth, but the Spirit Giveth LIFE (Ukiah, CA: Peoples Temple). Also available at Alternative Considerations of Peoples Temple and Jonestown at

[5] Rebecca Moore, Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009) 30.

[6] Reiterman and Jacobs, 266.

[7] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 30.

[8] Chidester, 8.

[9] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 33.

[10] Patricia Cartmell, “No Haloes Please” (1970) in folder 18, John R. Hall Research Materials, MS 3803, California Historical Society, San Francisco.

[11] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 33.

[12] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 33.

[13] Allen J. Matusow, The Unraveling of America: a History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper & Row, 1984) xiv.

[14] Larry Layton, Deborah’s brother, was the only member of Peoples Temple arrested and tried for the deaths in Jonestown. Larry pretended to join other defectors who were leaving with Congressman Ryan and then opened fire once inside the airplane.

[15] Deborah Layton, Seductive Poison (New York: Anchor, 1998) 30.

[16] Layton, 53.

[17] Layton, 13.

[18] Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, dir. Stanley Nelson, DVD, American Experience, 2006.

[19] Matusow, 210.

[20] Matusow, 213.

[21] Hall, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1987), 94.

[22] Hall, 95.

[23] Stephen Steinberg, Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995) 100.

[24] Steinberg, 100.

[25] Steinberg, 100.

[26] Milton Marks, Relative to Commending Reverend Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (California: Senate Rules Committee, 1976). Also available at Alternative Considerations at

[27] Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy, “Inside Peoples Temple,” New West 1 Aug. 1977: 30-38. Also available at Alternative Considerations at

[28] Kilduff and Tracy, 34.

[29] In fact, public record might even have contradicted Walter Jones’ accusation that the Temple did not provide enough money for him to take care of the emotionally disturbed boys in his care. There is substantial indication that Peoples Temple homes were in fact far better then the facilities provided by the government. Evidence of this can be found on page 82 of John Hall’s Gone from the Promised Land.

[30] Deborah and Elmer Mertle later changed their names to Al and Jeanne Mills and will be referred to as such throughout the rest of the paper.

[31] Kilduff and Tracy, 38.

[32] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 59.

[33] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 59.

[34] Chidester, 7.

[35] “Eight Revolutionaries’ Letter,” Alternative Considerations at

[36] Chidester, 8.

[37] Statement: What’s Behind the Attacks on Peoples Temple?

[38] Moore, Understanding Jonestown,41.

[39] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 45.

[40] Affidavit of Deborah Layton Blakely, June 1978, Alternative Considerations at

[41] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 47

[42] Letters from Carolyn Moore Layton, October 11, 1977, Alternative Considerationsat

[43] Letters from Pat Grunnet, September 1978, Alternative Considerations at

[44] Hall, 210.

[45] Hall. 216.

[46] Hall, 216.

[47] Hall, 216.

[48] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 61.

[49] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 61.

[50] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 62.

[51] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 62.

[52] Hall, 225.

[53] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 63.

[54] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 63.

[55] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 64.

[56] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 64.

[57] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 64.

[58] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 64.

[59] “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones against Our Children and Relatives at the Peoples Temple Jungle Encampment in Guyana, South America” (11 April, 1978), Alternative Considerations at

[60] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 66.

[61] Hall, 231.

[62] Hall, 231.

[63] Hall, 214.

[64] Hall, 214.

[65] Hall, 214.

[66] Hall, 215.

[67] Hall, 215.

[68] Hall, 215.

[69] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 68.

[70] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 68.

[71] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 68.

[72] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 68.

[73] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 70.

[74] Denice Stephenson, ed., Dear People: Remembering Jonestown (San Francisco and Berkeley: California Historical Society and Heyday Books, 2005) 100; also in FBI FOIA doc. BB-10-J.

[75] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 72.

[76] FBI Audiotape Q643. This is the third tape in a series, Q 641-644, of the events of that White Night.

[77] FBI Audiotape Q642. This is the second tape in a series, Q 641-644.

[78] See Appendix

[79] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 87-88.

[80] State Department Cable, 5 November 1978, From U.S. Embassy to Secretary of State, in The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and The Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy: Report of a Staff Investigative Group to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, House Document No. 96-223 (15 May 1979), 96th Congress, 1rst Session (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979), 51.

[81] FBI Audio Tape Q 175.

[82] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 90.

[83] Hall, 270.

[84] Quoted, Moore Understanding Jonestown, 94.

[85] The exceptions were Hyacinth Thrash who slept through the meeting and Grover Davis who missed the initial report because of his poor hearing.

[86] Ethan Feinsod, Awake in a Nightmare: Jonestown the Only Eyewitness Account (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), 195.

[87] FBI FOIA doc. 89-4286-484. Also available at Alternative Considerations at

[88] Rebecca Moore, The Jonestown Letters: Correspondence of the Moore Family 1970-1985 (Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1986), 284-86. Also available at Alternative Considerations at

[89] FBI FOIA doc. X-1-A-54. Also available at Alternative Considerations at

[90] Emile Durkheim, Morality and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1973) 173.

[91] Durkheim, Morality and Society, 184.

[92] Durkheim, Morality and Society, 184.

[93] Available at Alternative Considerations ar

[94] Max Weber, On Charisma and Institution Building (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1968) 253.

[95] Weber, 254.

[96] Life and Death of Peoples Temple.

[97] Durkheim, Morality and Society, 173

[98] Chidester, 86.

[99] Chidester, 87.

[100] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 87.

[101] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 88.

[102] Quoted, Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 88.

[103] Emile Durkheim, Suicide (London: Penguin, 2006) 217.

[104] Michael Taylor “Aftershocks of Prokes Death,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 1979.

[105] Nora Gallagher, “Jonestown: The Survivors Story.” New York Times Magazine, Nov. 18, 1979, p. 40.

[106] Durkheim, Suicide, 221.

[107] Durkheim, Suicide, 221.

[108] Durkheim, Suicide, 223.

[109] Durkheim, Suicide, 225,

[110] Chidester, 71.

[111] Chidester, 73.

[112] Hall, 289.

[113] Hall, 289.

[114] State Department Jonestown Documents 225, 240, 229, and 226

[115] Hall, 293.

[116] Hall, 293.

[117] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 103.

[118] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 104.

[119] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 104.

[120] Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York: Free, 1965) 356-361.

[121] Hall, 308.

[122] Hall, 309.

[123] Hall, 309.

[124] Moore, Understanding Jonestown, 106.

[125] Cyril H. Wecht, “Jonestown 1978: A Forensic Pathologist’s Retrospective Observations,” (October 2008).

[126] Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in White and Black (New York: Random House, 1964) 4.

[127] Ernest van den Haag Capitalism: Sources of Hostility (New Rochelle, NY: Epoch Books, 1979) 19.

[128] Steinberg, 27.

[129] Steinberg, 29.

[130] Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 110.

[131] Steinberg, 79.

[132] Steinberg, 88.

[133] Steinberg, 89.

[134] Steinberg, 91.

[135] Steinberg, 99.

[136] Steinberg, 99.

[137] Steinberg, 101.

[138] Steinberg, 103.

[139] Steinberg, 107.

[140] Steinberg, 110.

[141] Dalton Conley, Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1999) 8.

[142] Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy and Society (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983) 2.

[143] Steinberg, 112.

[144] Robert M. Fogelson, “White on Black: A Critique of the McCone Commission Report on the Los Angeles Riots,” Political Science Quarterly September, 1967: 338.

[145] Fogelson, “White on Black,” 341-342.

[146] Fogelson, “White on Black,” 342.

[147] Gary Orfield, Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge (Los Angeles: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, 2009) 3.

[148] Orfield, 4.

[149] Lance Lochner, Education and Crime (London, ON: University of Western Ontario) 1.