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Jim Jones and the People’s Temple
A good majority of the followers of Jim Jones were African Americans. A great deal of research has been done on the subject of his followers and their ethnic and psychological backgrounds. In this paper, I will discuss briefly the ethnic influences that predisposed African Americans to worshipping under Jim Jones. I will also discuss the psychological and social backgrounds of his followers as it relates to their likelihood for recruitment and commitment within the People’s Temple. Jim Jones ability to simulate the feel of the black church and intentional targeting of desolate, distressed African Americans were essential factors in obtaining dedicated followers of his movement.
Jim Jones was able to cleverly emulate the “call and response” techniques of southern Black ministers (Moore, Pinn and Sawyer). This is a style not generally practiced by mainstream white preachers of that time. The familiarity of the People’s Temple service was the draw for many and the “come one, come all” theme of the church made them stay. Jones was less critical of the degenerates of society and people took comfort in that. They let down their guards with Jones because they felt accepted by him. They found love and acceptance in Jones that they had missed along the way in life. Even though he was a white man his style and manner of speaking made him approachable and likeable in the beginning. The ability to preach in a style that was familiar to this African American community was crucial to the recruitment and commitment process.
Jones’ follower’s found in him a place to belong. To leave him meant going back out into the world that had previously rejected them. To leave also meant a certain amount of embarrassment; an admission that they had been foolish to follow a person like Jim Jones.
Strategically, Jones targeted African Americans that were either elderly or single parents. Many of these families’ sole sources of income were monthly...