On November 18, 1978, over 900 members of the predominantly African American Peoples Temple church died in the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, South America, masterminded by the Reverend Jim Jones and his core followers. Prior to 9/11, the Jonestown massacre was the largest loss of civilian life in American history. The majority of those who died in Jonestown were African American women and children. Yet this fact has been lost in mainstream coverage centering on whites who were involved in the Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Blackjonestown.org provides educational and historical resources on the Black experience in Jonestown and the Peoples Temple. It is the first site solely devoted to lifting up the voices, experiences and social history of African American Peoples Temple and Jonestown members, victims and survivors.
The site features work by Black women survivors such as Leslie Wagner Wilson, Yulanda Williams and Juanell Smart, in addition to articles, books and videos on the tragedy and its historical significance for the African American community. According to survivor Leslie Wagner Wilson, author of the Jonestown memoir Slavery of Faith, “It is our intent to open up dialogue about the experiences of Black women and Black people in the Jonestown diaspora. In order to ensure that the tragedy of Jonestown isn’t repeated, it’s important to examine, and learn from, the lessons of the past. What I find most disturbing is that our individual experiences as people of color have been basically ignored. We have had virtually no voice when it comes to mainstream coverage and documentation of what happened. As far as the media, book deals, film deals; our voices and individual stories have not been sought out. We were the backs upon which Peoples Temple existed and grew from.”
As Sikivu Hutchinson, author of the novel, short film and play White Nights, Black Paradise notes, “For decades, a succession of Jonestown productions and countless books authored by white people have focused squarely on the lethal charisma of the Reverend Jim Jones. In the turbulence and disillusionment of the post-civil rights, post-Vietnam era, Jonestown was appealing to Black people because it was supposed to be an alternative to the racial strife, economic inequality and segregation of the U.S. For Black women and Black people looking back, one of the profound lessons of Jonestown is that these conditions have only intensified in the Trump era and charismatic religious movements continue to have the same dangerous appeal.”
The Blackjonestown.org collective is comprised of African American Jonestown survivors and community members as well as African American scholars, writers and historians.
Company Name: Blackjonestown.org
Contact Person: Sikivu Hutchinson
City: Los Angeles
Country: United States