On November 18, 1978, in northwestern Guyana, 918 people died in what Jim Jones, the leader of the settlement there called Jonestown, deemed "revolutionary suicide." The events of that day resulted in what was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001. The vast majority of those that died were African-American, and many had cut off communication from their families back home in America. What led these people to a remote area of jungle in South America? What made Jim Jones into the psychotic demagogue he morphed into? And why did so many have to die?
We discuss this and more with Julia Scheeres, author of "A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown," in part one of a two-part series on Jonestown. In this episode we talk about Jim Jones' formative years, why he started the Peoples Temple, what life was like for a member of the church, and why so many agreed to move to Guyana. Plus, was Jones a true believer, or simply a charlatan, and was it mass suicide or mass murder?
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