Peoples Temple Oral History Project

In an effort to capture as many of the voices and perspectives on Peoples Temple and Jonestown that still exist, the Religious Studies Department and Love Library Special Collections at San Diego State University have inaugurated the Peoples Temple Oral History Project.

With the help of former Temple members, ex-members and apostates, relatives of the Jonestown dead, and others, the project has identified more than 200 people who carry a piece of the Temple’s story. With skilled interviewers and knowledgeable sources, project organizers plan to travel throughout California, the Pacific Northwest and across the country to record these voices. Eventually, what will emerge will be a deeper, fuller, more complex history that will challenge all preconceived and previous descriptions of the Peoples Temple movement and the Jonestown community.

Professional archivists and historians will assist the project in preserving the tapes and transcripts in permanent housing in the Special Collections Department of the Love Library at SDSU. Special Collections will supervise storage, access and release of the items. Depending upon participant consent, transcriptions of the tapes will appear on the websites for the Special Collections at SDSU Library, as well as the Department of Religious Studies.

Organizers also anticipate inclusion of the tapes in a book produced by the Department of Religious Studies, use of tape excerpts along with pictures in displays commemorating the Jonestown dead, and archiving them as a permanent resource for future historians and students of the Jonestown tragedy.

We invite those who can refer us to a former member of Peoples Temple, a relative of any of the Jonestown dead, or anyone who has a piece of the Temple story to contact us.