Seeking racial and social justice, hundreds of Black Americans moved to South America – only to be victims of one of the deadliest mass killings in U.S. history. Yet their story and search for liberation are often untold. Who were they?
They were members of People’s Temple, a religious group founded by Jim Jones. Positioning himself as some type of white savior, Jones presented the church as a supporter of social justice, racial equality, and anti-sexism.
But then everything changed.
Despite Jones’ claims, in practice, white interests always came first. No Black people were in leadership positions. A small group of white women led instead. Jones started using drugs and becoming paranoid – and it gets worse.
He moved the group to Jonestown, in Guyana, and started mentally abusing members – eventually forcing them to drink generic kool-aid laced with poison!
Of the 918 people Jones convinced to participate in mass suicide, nearly 700 were Black, and most were women. The desire for liberation was usurped by a power-hungry con man.
Jonestown started out as a vision for liberation and equality, but it soon became a nightmare, especially for Black people involved in the movement. Their deaths remind us that liberation is not easily achieved – and we must always be skeptical of “allies” outside our community who may not truly have our best interests at heart.