Databank Explores Jonestown Population

An extensive demographic analysis confirms previous studies and reveals new information about the make-up of Peoples Temple and Jonestown.

Compiled from government documents from the State Department and the FBI, as well as from Temple membership records and census data maintained in Jonestown, a computer database shows that two-thirds of those living in Guyana were African American, with 24% white, 5% mixed race, and 3% other.

The analysis also graphically shows the predominance of children living in Jonestown, with 365 children under the age of 20. This compares to a corresponding “bump” in the number of people over the age of 60, which make up 211 of the Temple population in Guyana.

What is most striking is the interconnection of family and kinship groups. The data indicate a high degree of affectivity in Jonestown: in plain English, almost everyone had some sort of relative present. This is in contrast to other alternative religions coming out of the 1960s and 1970s, which attracted unattached young white members.

Confirming previous analyses of Jonestown’s residents, the study shows a strong southern black presence in the geographical distribution of birthplaces, with 345 people, or about one-third of Jonestown’s population, coming from nine southern or border states. An overwhelming percentage of this group — 93% — were African American, and about half were 60 and older.

These statistics will appear in the forthcoming book Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America, and were presented in part at the November 2002 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Salt Lake City.