Throughout the final years of Peoples Temple’s existence, both in California and in Jonestown, Jim Jones spoke on numerous occasions about the federal government’s plans to round up members of various minority populations – but most especially, blacks – as well as political dissidents, and to put them in concentration camps. For example:
• Q 972, recorded in August 1973, includes Jones’ statement: “Spiritual wickedness in high places is going to come to take people and put them in jails. Right now, they’re trying to get an executive order passed that will empower the president of this United States to put people in concentration camps without one consultation with Congress. Now it won’t happen to you, but you’ve got to cooperate with me. You want to be free? Then cooperate with me.”
• In Q 962, recorded the same year, the concentration camp reference is part of a larger warning about the approaching tyranny: “You go home and read … Executive Order 11490 and 11647. You go home and read it. Right now, they’re preparing to set up a dictatorship – it’s already written into law – that will give the president power to move people wherever he wants to, to put them in concentration camps, to take over every street car line, over every transportation, over every farm, over every office, over every factory. He’ll put serial numbers and a mark of the beast right on you. You’ll not be anymore a person, you’ll be a number. And every black and brown and poor white will be done away with.”
• In Q 987, recorded in Philadelphia in 1977, Jones describes where the idea came from: “I heard it from the heads of the government of the United States today, ’cause I just come in from Washington, just flew in on the plane from the conference with the top notch leaders. I listen to them talk about planned takeovers. … Task force warns nation to get ready for riots and to get ready for martial law and to get ready for concentration camps. … Get ready for identification marks to be put on your body and identification number, even if necessary tattooed.”
The warnings appears in Jonestown audiotapes as well.
• During the course of news tape Q 741, Jones reminds the people of Jonestown of the evils back home: “No guarantees ever exist in the United States of capitalist fascism. Your children are always a prey of a drug-pusher, the system in crime, youth and adult gangs, and then finally, genocidal patterns of ethnic weapons and concentration camps in which our people would have been destroyed.”
• On Q 637, recorded during a White Night in April 1978, the image comes through as part of a large list of evils: “I came to save you from jails, torture, concentration camps, a nuclear war which your skin will roll off your back.”
Periodically, Jones even mentions the proposal giving the president the authority for such internment:
• In Q 1059-2, a sermon from 1972: “They got plans… There’s a plan already laid aside to put you in gas chambers. It’s called King Alfred Plan.”
• In Q 957, an address from 1973: “We have this discussion of King Alfred Plan here, we have the discussion … that the past cabinet just approved, which will be the total annihilation of the black race.”
• In the 1977 Philadelphia sermon Q 987 mentioned above: “there’s a plan called King Alfred Plan that has, not only concentration camps in store for we who are black, but the absolute annihilation.”
• In Jonestown news tape Q 197: “Racist genocide is not unknown and will be done again. You can believe USA’s got plans for it, [like] the King Alfred Plan.”
In many ways, the reported existence of government programs along the lines of the King Alfred Plan was a symptom of its times. With a precedent in Nazi Germany and contemporary uses in the apartheid regime of the Union of South Africa, the concept of concentration camps in the U.S. was not far-fetched. There was even a precedent within living memory of many Temple members, with rumors that the McCarran Act of the 1950s allowed federal authorities to round up subversives – at the time, it meant Communists – and put them in concentration camps in times of national emergency.
While the truth of the program resonated within the black communities of American cities, the plan itself was fiction, coming from a 1967 novel The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams. The author compared the plan to programs created by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover to monitor black militants. The fact is, however, the plan under that name never existed, except, in part, as a way for Jones to describe the coming American political apocalypse.