On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones instructed all members living in the Jonestown, Guyana compound to commit an act of "revolutionary suicide," by drinking poisoned punch. In all, 918 people died that day, nearly a third of whom were children. The Jonestown Massacre was the most deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history until September 11, 2001. The Jonestown Massacre also remains the only time in history in which a U.S. congressman (Leo Ryan) was killed in the line of duty.
Founded in 1956 by Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple was a racially integrated church that focused on helping people in need. Jones originally established the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis, Indiana, but then moved it to Redwood Valley, California in 1966. Jones had a vision of a communist community, one in which everyone lived together in harmony and worked for the common good. He was able to establish this in a small way while in California but he dreamed of establishing a compound outside of the United States. This compound would be fully under his control, allow Peoples Temple members to help others in the area, and be far away from any influence of the United States government.
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