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Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America

Edited by Rebecca Moore, Anthony B. Pinn and Mary R. Sawyer

Publication Year: 2004

The Peoples Temple movement ended on November 18, 1978, when more than 900 men, women, and children died in a ritual of murder and suicide in their utopianist community of Jonestown, Guyana. Only a handful lived to tell their story. As is well known, Jim Jones, the leader of Peoples Temple, was white, but most of his followers were black. Despite that, little has been written about Peoples Temple in the context of black religion in America. In 10 essays, writers from various disciplines address this gap in the scholarship. Twenty-five years after the tragedy at Jonestown, they assess the impact of the black religious experience on Peoples Temple.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

"Many people helped in the preparation and production of this book: friends, families, colleagues, and associates. We would like to name just a few. Fielding M. McGehee III served yeoman duty as transcriber, copyeditor, indexer, and advisor on a number of issues. Thank you,..."

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pp. xi-xx

"Peoples Temple began as a racially mixed, independent congregation in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the early 1950s. Initially called 'Community Unity,' in 1955 the congregation took the name 'Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church.' In 1959, the congregation affiliated with..."

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1. Peoples Temple as Black Religion: Re-imagining the Contours of Black Religious Studies

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pp. 1-27

"Traditionally, discussions focusing on the theoretical and methodological shape of Black Religious Studies point to a problematic and narrow perception of the nature and content of black religion as a general category of experience. Take, for example, Gayraud Wilmore's framing of the field..."

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2. Daddy Jones and Father Divine: The Cult as Political Religion

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pp. 28-46

"On a tragic afternoon in the fall of 1978, in a protracted orgy of coercive suicide, nearly a thousand Americans died in a bizarre expression of religious commitment. Although the event took place in the far-off jungles of Guyana, the history, composition, and the..."

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3. An Interpretation of Peoples Temple and Jonestown: Implications for the Black Church

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pp. 47-56

"In this paper I shall (1) consider two theories which emerged to 'explain' Jonestown; (2) identify secularism as a central theme; (3) relate this central theme to a plausibility crisis in Black Church religion and the appeal of Peoples Temple; and (4) suggest some implications for the Black Church and its ministry in the light of Peoples Temple and the Jonestown holocaust."

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4. Demographics and the Black Religious Culture of Peoples Temple

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pp. 57-80

"The Peoples Temple agricultural project in Jonestown, Guyana, was a racially black community in a number of key respects. A large group of African Americans who migrated from the southern U.S. to California made up a sizeable contingent of those living in..."

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5. Peoples Temple and Housing Politics in San Francisco

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pp. 81-102

"In 1999, the public television station KQED aired a documentary entitled The Fillmore on the history of the San Francisco district surrounding Fillmore Street in the area known as the Western Addition.1 The program traces this history through the area's early days as..."

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6. To Die for the Peoples Temple: Religion and Revolution after Black Power

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pp. 103-122

"Although citizens of the First World commonly think of the 1960s as the decade of youthful rebellion, Civil Rights struggle, pop cultural explosion, and anti-war agitation, for our purposes it is necessary to reassert the overriding significance of Third World..."

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7. Jim Jones and Black Worship Traditions

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pp. 123-138

"Decades after its tragic end, the Peoples Temple movement remains a singular moment in American religious history. But one of the things that still seems to have been overlooked, or forgotten, in our subsequent attempts to make sense of this phenomenon and the..."

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8. Breaking the Silence: Reflections of a Black Pastor

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pp. 139-157

"If we are to learn anything about the tragedy of Jonestown, we must begin with an understanding that it is not about a single day sliced out of our history. In my judgment, there was an earlier tragedy- pieces of which I noticed and did nothing about, pieces of which..."

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9. America Was Not Hard to Find

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pp. 158-165

"In these, our troubling times, I find no clearer signal of God's call to repentance than the phenomenon called Jonestown. Whether American Christians comprehended Jonestown may well determine their answer to an important question: Did those nine hundred shed..."

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10. The Church in Peoples Temple

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pp. 166-193

"In the mid-1970s, some one thousand members of the movement known as Peoples Temple relocated from California to the South American country of Guyana to build a settlement that they intended would exemplify the principles of communalism and racial harmony."


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pp. 194-195


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pp. 196-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110831
E-ISBN-10: 0253110831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253343710

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 3 figures, 1 index
Publication Year: 2004