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U.S. History/Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre


1)How many people belonged to the people's Temple?
2)How did the people's temple begin?
3)What was Jim Jones' racial?
4)Who else was a leader of the People's Temple?
5)Where was Jonestown at?
6)What were the punishment at Jonestown?
7)What were white nights?
8)How many white nights were their?
9)What was Jim Jones' mental and physical conditions?
10)How many people died during the massacre?
11) Who was with congressman Leo Ryan while on the trip to Guyana?
12)What were the youngest age of children being killed?
13)Did Jim Jones' commit suicide or was he murdered?
14)What happen to the dead bodies in Jonestown?
15)What happened to the people's temple after the Jonestown massacre?

Jim Jones started the People's temple in 1955 in Indiana.   It attracted thousands of followers there, but reached its height of around 20,000 when it moved to California in the 1960's.  Jones was an avowed Communist who used the Temple to further his social views.  There were not really other leaders at the Temple.  Jones surrounded himself with a group of young women to run the administration but who also were rather obedient to his will.

Jim Jones himself was white.  He was a strong advocate for civil rights for minorities.  His temple was very diverse, with a majority of his followers being African American.

Jonestown was established in Guyana in the north near the border with Venezuela.  Punishments for violations at Jonestown could include beatings or imprisonment in a small box or a well on the property.  Jones was concerned that Jonestown would be attacked by the CIA or some other group.  He held what were called "white nights" to discuss options to deal with such an attack.  Included in those options was mass suicide.  These events were held on multiple occasions, although I know of no record of an exact number.

Jones was becoming increasingly paranoid and delusional, probably fueled by his drug use.  He was physically able, but mentally unstable.

A total of 918 people died at Jonestown, the air strip, and at nearby Georgetown as part of the massacre / suicide.  Con. Leo Ryan was traveling with several members of his personal staff, reporters, and family members of several Jonestown residents.  Children of all ages were killed in the massacre.  Some of them were infants less than one year old.

Jones died of a gunshot wound to the head.  Although no witnesses of the shooting lived to tell about it, the Coroner's office ruled the shooting consistent with suicide.

I'm not sure what happened to all the bodies.  The local medical examiner reviewed several hundred of them although the requirement that full autopsies be made was waived because of the shear number.  Several bodies were sent back to the US for autopsy.  It is likely most of the bodies were either buried or burned in an an undisclosed location.

The Jonestown compound was abandoned after the massacre.  It's building eventually burned in a fire.  The San Francisco Temple went into bankruptcy and was sold.  It was later used as a Seventh Day Adventist Church.

I hope this helps!
- Mike

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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