Thirty years ago yesterday, 900 people living on a commune in Guyana under the religious guidance of Jim Jones killed themselves, or were murdered. The story of Jonestown is an amazingly twisted tale involving faith, trust, charisma, control, and politics. In my opinion, that story has never been synthesized better than in Raven: The Untold Story of The Reverend Jim Jones and His People, just republished this week. Tim Reiterman, the main author of the 1982 book and former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, was investigating the cult for more than a year before the suicides. During a fact-finding mission to Guyana with Congressman leo Ryan, Reiterman was shot by Peoples Temple gunmen. He was injured, but Ryan and several others were killed. That's when all hell broke loose.
As Reiterman points out in his preface to the book, Jones had a sign hanging above his throne with this phrase painted on it: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Indeed. There are still stories from Jonestown waiting to be remembered, and lessons to learn from those stories. Raven: The Untold Story of The Reverend Jim Jones and His People is a good place to start. Also, Xeni will be posting a number of Jonestown related items today so please stay tuned.
Buy Raven: The Untold Story of The Reverend Jim Jones and His People (Amazon), Interview with Reiterman (TIME)