An individualist, racially mixed organization was born in the early 1950’s in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) In 1955, this new congregation was called “Community Unity” before having its name changed to “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church.” (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) The founder of the church was James Warren Jones, commonly known as Jim Jones, and he was from a part of the nation that was split by racial segregation and filled with Christian values. (Chidester 1) Interviewees made claims about Jones stating that he developed a very strong “interest in religion and performed services for neighborhood children.” (Abbott 7) Though from a young age, it did not seem as if he was in the right mindset with a person who knew him later recalled how he was seen taking the life of tiny animals and giving them funerals. Seeing clear racist acts first hand made him decide to become a preacher and soon he had the power to form his own church.
(Abbot 7) In a thesis written by Catherine Abbott, she says: “Jones claimed to be a prophet and then God, criticized the Bible and became atheistic, called himself a Marxist, a socialist, and a Communist, and strove for equal rights for minorities in the United States through his interactions with the Black Panther Party and Prominent black religious figures, including Father Divine.” (Abbott ii) His group, in 1960, was approved as a congregation in the Christian Church, Disciple of Christ. (Chidester 5) He ushered minorities to become a member of his church, and in a time of national unease and discrimination, he gave an African-American infant a new home by adopting him. (Young 2) In 1965, around 70 members of the group, including both Caucasian and African-American families, moved to Redwood Valley, California. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) This move to California, which the congregation believed to be a progressive state, was largely because of the harassment that Jones and his members were receiving in Indiana. (Abbott 8) By 1968, they began gaining the trust of black ministers by participating in black church services held in San Francisco. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) Peoples Temple members would invite churchgoers from the black churches in San Francisco to attend Peoples Temples services in Redwood Valley in exchange for fellowship.
(Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) Throughout this time, young caucasian individuals became drawn to this movement. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) A number of them grew up religious but most of the time they were bound to non-religious principles of racial segregation and economic democracy. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) In 1970, a building was bought in San Francisco by Peoples Temple, which gave them the power to hold their services in the town.
(Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) In a very small slot of time, the membership of the movement grew to about 3,000 people. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) Not uncommonly, generations of families would join at a time. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi, xxi) A portion of the members who joined the church during this time were African-American youth who was on the streets running amuck.
(Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) The larger majority of black individuals who joined the Temple were from the churches of San Francisco. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xi) Jones and his followers did a lot of good in San Francisco and were very much a part of the political establishment of the city. (Young 1) “They were credited with really helping George Moscone get elected and (Jones) was rewarded for his help in that election by being appointed the chairman of the housing commission…
” Nelson says. (Young 1) Jones with his charismatic manner and charm could have busloads of followers in support of political or social events and causes, and his church membership became a potent veto bloc. (Klose 3) Although it seemed as if the odds were in favor of Jones and his temple, they were hit with scandal. Reverend Jones began following through with a plan to create his own version of a utopian society after getting bad publicity in San Francisco for the apparent maltreatment of his people. (Abbott 8) The leadership of Peoples Temple came to an agreement with the then government of Guyana to build a settlement of agriculture on some acres in the Guyanese jungle. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xii) This utopian society was called “The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project,” which later became known as Jonestown. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xii) Followers of Jones were relocated or relocated to the new settlement and a number of them became permanent residents. (Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xii) Peoples Temple members began to pursue their own idea of a utopian society that was not segregated and economically fair.
(Moore, Pinn, Sawyer xii) However, troubles for Jim Jones continued as the church began to settle at its new settlement. (Abbott 9) Jones was accused, by a group named the Concerned Relatives, of not letting the members here leave the settlement and the group also claimed of Jones of having emotionally, physically, and sexually abused settlers. (Abbott 9) This prompted Leo Ryan, a California State Representative, along with a small team, to go assess these claims in November 17, 1978. (Abbott 9) Jones responded to the allegations saying that the members were allowed to come and go as they saw fit. (Abbott 9) Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Congressman Ryan until member Vern Goshey and a few other members slipped him a note the next day.. (Abbott 9) A few members chose to go back to the United States with Congressman Ryan.
(Abbott 9) On November 18, 1978, Ryan’s delegation was attacked as they were approaching the plane to leave at the Port Kaituma airstrip. (Chidester 1) After the attack, Reverend Jones announced to the people that they had to attend a meeting at the Jonestown pavilion. (Abbott 10) A container filled with grape Flavor-Aid spiked with cyanide had been prepared and placed in front of Jones’s followers. (Abbott 10) As loyal followers distributed the concoction to Jonestown residents, Jones told his people “Lay down their lives” by consuming the cyanide-laced drink. (Abbott 10) He told them that they were committing “revolutionary suicide” which he said was a protest to the inhumane conditions of capitalist United States. (Abbott 10)More than 900 American citizens living in the settlement commited mass suicide.
(Chidester 1) Jones did not take the poison and was murdered by Anne Moore, who later killed herself. (Klose 6) Families of the deceased claimed most of the bodies but a little less than half of the dead members were entire families. (Young 1) While people back in the United states tried making sense of the tragedy, many forgot to mention any humanity that Jones and his followers had. (Chidester 2) They were told off as monsters.
(Chidester 1)As the world struggled to come to terms with the lives lost in Jonestown, people were able to see how far a human being could go to escape reality. They manipulated, tortured without a single clue of what was going on.