Remembering the Jonestown Massacre 35 Years Later

It’s been 35 years since the lives of more than 900 men, women, and children were taken by cult leader Jim Jones.
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It’s been 35 years since the lives of more than 900 men, women, and children were taken by cult leader Jim Jones.

Cult Leader Jim Jones sits with his wife, children, and extended family in this portrait taken just two years before the mass suicide he orchestrated in 1978. (Getty)

Cult Leader Jim Jones sits with his wife, children, and extended family in this portrait taken just two years before the mass suicide he orchestrated in 1978. (Getty)

It’s been 35 years since the lives of more than 900 men, women, and children were poisoned in a mass suicide/murder known as the "Jonestown Massacre." On November 18, 1978, cult leader and Communist Jim Jones convinced his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch out of fear that their group, the Peoples Temple, were in threat of being destroyed by the CIA and money-hungry American capitalists. The poisonous punch thus gave birth to the phrase: “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” The massacre is considered one of the greatest losses of life in a deliberate act of violence against American civilians and only comes second to that of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Towers.

Jones’s rise to power came in the 1950s after he branched off from his Indianapolis church because it forbade minorities in its fellowship. By setting an inclusive tone in his church—not only including minorities but any marginalized group—and “healing” the members of his church, Jones was able to grow his congregation exponentially and appeal to the masses. His family backed up his message, with Jones having adopted several children of different ethnic backgrounds, including one African-American child—the first black child ever adopted by a white couple in Indianapolis. The extended and diverse family, pictured above, gave congregation members a sense of belonging that unfortunately led to their deaths 35 years ago today.