Jonestown | Truer Crime Podcast

Jonestown

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In November of 1978, 918 Americans died in the middle of the Guyanese jungle. It would be “the largest single incident of civilian death in American history” until September 11th, 2001. But who were these people? How did they really die? And why were they in South America to begin with? It’s a story you may have heard before — but maybe never quite like this.

Today’s story contains references to suicide and mass death. Please take care while listening.

A full transcript of this episode is available here.

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Action Items Related to Today’s Episode

Help Jonestown survivor Herbert Newell fund and finish his book! Send funds to Mr. Newell via Cash App, cashtag $11181978f

Send funds to The Jonestown Memorial. These funds will help offset the costs of the cemetery in Oakland where most victims of the Jonestown tragedy are buried. You can send your donations by mail to Jonestown Memorial PO Box 2722 Oakland, CA 94602.

Visit The Jonestown Memorial List at Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & the Peoples Temple. Here, you’ll find a complete list of people who died in Guyana on November 18th 1978, along with their photos, names, lists of family members, and remembrances from their family and friends. We encourage you to spend some time reading about these folks as a way to honor them and keep their memory alive.

Visit Black Jonestown, known as “the first website devoted to lifting up the voices, experiences and social history of African American Peoples Temple and Jonestown members, victims and survivors.” Here you’ll find tons of articles and videos to further learn about Jonestown and Peoples Temple, with special attention to the perspectives of Black women survivors. 

Key Research Mentioned 

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Not Surviving Jonestown, by E.E. Smith

The Jonestown Institute, Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple, sponsored by the Special Collections of Library and information Access at San Diego State University

YouTube: No Church in the Wild, a documentary series featuring Lestlie Wagner-Wilson by Anansi Minds

Sources Used:

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: FAQ, all questions and answers written by Fielding M. McGehee II unless otherwise notes on the website.

Wikipedia: Jonestown*

New West: Inside Peoples Temple, by Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy, Courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

PBS Documentary: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

The Indianapolis Recorder: Peoples Temple Interracial-Interdenominational, photo of advertisement courtesy of the Jonestwon Institute

ABC News: 40 years after Jonestown massacre, ex-members describe Jim Jones as a ‘real monster,’ by Lauren Effron and Monica Delarosa

The Modesto Bee: A timeline of Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple

The Jonestown Institute: 100 Events in History of Peoples Timeline, assembled by Fielding McGehee and Don Beck, based upon the extensive research of Don Beck.

Esquire: Nine Places to Hide, by Caroline Reid. Courtesy of the Jonestown Institute.

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What was Jim Jones’ racial heritage?, by the Jonestown Institute

Black Perspectives: Black Women and the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, by Sikivu Hutchinson

SFBay: The Fillmore, Jonestown and the reckoning of racism, by Brian Neumann

The Conversation: Before the tragedy at Jonestown, the people of Peoples Temple had a dream, by Rebecca Moore.

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Why was Jonestown established in a remote area of the small South American country of Guyana?, by the Jonestown Institute

Bloomberg: The Jonestown Massacre and the Seduction of the ‘Racial Utopia,’ by Brentin Mock

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: A Place Like No Other: Jonestown’s Early Years by Mike Touchette

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Snapshots from a Jonestown Life, by Phil Blakey

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: How did so many members of Peoples Temple migrate to Jonestown in such a short time? Were they forced to go?, by the Jonestown Institute.

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What were conditions like at Jonestown? by the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What is the definition of “revolutionary suicide,” by the Jonestown Institute 

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What are White Nights? How many of them were there?, by the Jonestown Institute

PBS: Leo Joseph Ryan

ABC News: Former Peoples Temple members describe horrors of Jonestown massacre, the day 918 Americans died, by Lauren Effron and Monica Delarosa

AP News: Reporter’s 1978 account of deadly ambush, Jonestown Tragedy, by Tim Reiterman

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What exactly happened on 18 November 1978, by the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Last Rights, by Rebecca Moore, first appeared in In Defense of Peoples Temple– And Other Essays by Rebecca Moore

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: What happened to the bodies from Jonestown?, by the Jonestown Institute

Alternate Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Bitter Cup Fills to Overflowing, by Jeff Guinn

Rolling Stone: What Happened After Jonestown? by Erika Mailman

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Drinking the Kool-Aid, by Mike Carter

The Guardian, An apocalyptic cult, 900 dead: remembering the Jonestown massacre, 40 years on, by J Oliver Conroy

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: An Update on the Demographics, by Rebecca Moore

Audio Used:

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jim Jones discussing his upbringing, Q134 Transcript prepared by Fielding M. McGhee III, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jim Jones claiming to be Black, Q987 Transcript by Michael Bellefountaine, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jim Jones proclaiming himself savior, Q1057-2 Transcript by Michael Bellefountaine, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute.

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jim Jones talking about the horrors of capitalism: Q929 Transcript by Fielding M. McGhee III, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jones rehearsing answers with members, Q049-1 Transcript, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Jones telling member not to tell congressman Ryan and his group anything, Q175 Transcript by Seriina Covarrubias, courtesy of the Jonestown Institute

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple: Congressman Ryan talking at Jonestown, Q048 Transcript by Fielding M. McGhee III, audio courtesy of the Jonestown Institute.

*Indicates a source that is speculative and/or otherwise unofficial. These sources are used for gathering general information related to the story and are then independently verified by our team. We want to give credit to these sources for pointing us in the right direction of more official sources and/or being the first source to present us with information. With any source, it’s always important to fact-check the information.

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