Peoples Forum articles often positively singled out black parishioner involvement in political activism, noting that the “most faithful demonstrators were black” in a free press rally. Gone From the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History.
Jones’ cultivation of an institution that self-identified and functioned as a Black Church resulted in the Temple’s ability to integrate into the San Francisco African American community.
A reporter explained that Jones grew up in a “lily-white town” and witnessed discrimination in college, which led him to open his church as a “fully interracial” movement focused on “humanitarian work.” Jones described his Indiana parishioners: “About a fifth of the church’s 300 members are Negro.” He used his own race to shape the Indiana church’s mixed-race atmosphere, portraying his childhood family as interracial, noting his part-Cherokee heritage, and adopting a “rainbow family.” Integration was a “question of [his] son’s future” in 1961, suggesting Jones’ personal stake in the black movement.
Early commitment to desegregation led him to move west to escape Indiana’s racist atmosphere. In Redwood Valley, he described his mixed-race church as being “about seven per cent blacks, one per cent Indians, and the remainder Caucasians.” After settling in the Bay Area in 1976 and establishing a nearly 90 percent black base, Jones’ Temple used rhetoric and imagery to retain its civil rights-reminiscent, mixed-race title.
I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” Peoples Temple’s communalism also echoed the civil rights movement, since according to Michael Battle, the 1950s and ’60s Black Church fostered “community that could sustain basic opportunities” for oppressed blacks,. Most significantly, Jones referenced his own blackness in sermons, like in 1973: “You better say that black-haired nigger Jim believes in what he’s doing.”While presenting himself as black, Jones also sought to give his congregation an all-black identity. He claimed that his parishioners were African American: “you look white, but honey, you’re a nigger like Father Jim.” Peoples Temple services also followed customary Black Church practices. Harrison explains how services modeled “emotionally expressive Pentecostal tradition” rooted in “traditional black worship styles.”Inherent to the Temple’s promotion of blackness within the congregation was a dual effort to reject mainstream, white society, while also instilling fear amongst blacks. “Peoples Temple and Housing Politics in San Francisco.” In Peoples Templ and Black Religion in America, eds. Therefore, I will likely expand my Peoples Temple research into my senior thesis during Spring 2009. “Demographics and the Black Religious Culture of Peoples Temple.” In Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America, eds. 13 (December 1976): 2, CHS, Ephemera and Publications, B 2/F 14. 14 (January 1977): 4, CHS, Ephemera and Publications, B 2/F 14. [31 Susan Smith, “Crowds protest pending hotel tenant evictions,” The Daily Californian, 17 January 1977, CHS, Newspaper Clippings, F 3.  “Letters Publicized: Big Names Backed Jones,” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 November 1978, 5. You can reach me at With messages like these, Jones, a white pastor, along with an estimated two-thirds white leadership, cultivated an “80 to 90 percent black” congregation at his San Francisco Peoples Temple. The Temple’s infamous downfall came on November 18, 1978, when amid allegations of church abuse and corruption, around 900 of Reverend Jim Jones’ followers committed suicide at the church’s settlement, “Jonestown,” in Guyana. Jones founded the church in the 1950s in Indianapolis, Indiana. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2004.  George Moscone to Jim Jones, 4 April 1976, CHS, Records, B 2/F 34. Jim Jones to Housing Commission,” Peoples Forum 1, no.