Jim_Jones_in_front_of_the_International_HotelOn this date in 1931 Jim Jones was born. A Marxist from an early age, Jones felt frustrated by the repression of communists during the McCarthy era. In order to cloak his beliefs he turned to religion and in 1956 founded what was to become the People’s Temple. From the beginning it was an inter-racial congregation. He and his church were actively involved in the integration movement of the 1960’s. He eventually moved his church from Indiana to Northern California and finally to San Francisco. He was able to meet and work with many mainstream politician and celebrities including First Lady Rosalynn Carter. He and his followers moved to Jonestown in Guyana in 1977 to form a “perfect communist state”. He was also trying to escape the impact of a magazine article that revealed the extent of physical, mental and sexual abuse within the church. In isolation, Jones’ drug addition and mental disorders grew. In 1978 during an inspection visit of the compound by Congressman Leo Ryan, Jones became convinced that it was an attack on the church. As the congressman attempted to leave with 15 members who wanted to escape, Jones’ “Red Brigade” armed guards attacked and killed the congressman and 4 others. Later that day 910 inhabitants including 303 children died of cyanide poisoning from laced Kool Aid. Jones was shot in the head but it is not clear if it was suicide or if someone else shot him. Ever since the expression “drink the Kool Aid” has been used for people who mindlessly follow a leader or party.

Leave a comment