History Day Project on Jonestown Has Lessons for Teenagers of Today

The Face of Death exhibit The Face of Death exhibitPeople by the masses are like a powerful river. The individual is the rivulet adding to the river. Jim Jones was the main stream who added to the masses of this river, his church, and he led the river down to an ocean of massacre and death. His revolutionary church was called Peoples Temple, and he is destined to be remembered for influencing over 900 individuals to commit “revolutionary suicide,” which he saw as his stand against the inhumane ways of the world. Jones affected the American society by opening our eyes to how much one person can impact a great group of people.

Jones’ psyche was astounding. He gazed upon the world and saw what society denies seeing, like racism. He was admired for being eloquent, caring, and inspiring. He saw the corruption in the world and tried to show his ideas and theories through Peoples Temple. He had a very powerful voice which influenced and made people find joy in life without corruption. Jones was a revolutionary man that didn’t put his skills to best use. His persuasion led to a mass suicide which proved to be a horrible incident in American history.

My partners and I chose this topic for our History Day project to set the record straight about the Jonestown massacre. The media has blown this outrageous tragedy out of proportion so much that it made us want to scavenge for the truth. In doing so, we went to libraries individually as well as in a group, we conducted phone interviews, and we had e-mail exchanges with different contacts from this site.

Another reason we chose this topic was our understanding of the allure of what a cult is and the genius of the persuasion used to blind individuals of the dangers. As teenagers we are pressured everyday similarly to do things just like the people at Jonestown. This specific topic caught our notice when we realized how so many people could be so brainwashed and so dedicated as to listen and obey Jim Jones. An exhibit was the perfect way to express individual’s actions with a visual that upholds the theme of this year.

(Hillary Contreras and her partners won second place in her school and first place in the district with their History Day project on Jonestown.)