Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown
On November 18, 1978, 913 men, women, and children --followers of cult leader Jim Jones -- died during a mass suicide and murder in Jonestown, Guyana. In the months preceding the tragedy, Jim Jones and his People’s Temple followers recorded their tho
ughts, their problems and their aspirations. The hundreds of hours of audio tape form the basis of the NPR documentary Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown.
Airing in 1981, the documentary was written by James Reston, Jr and Noah Adams, and produced by Deborah Amos. It was based on the tapes Reston acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, and won most major broadcast awards including the Dupont Col
umbia Award, the National Headliner Award and the Prix Italia.
Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown recaptures the final months for the People’s Temple cult.
After problems arose for the group in San Francisco, they moved to the South American jungle during the 1970's. In 1978, reports of an increasingly hostile and controlling atmosphere by Jones led to a Congressional fact-finding mission into the cult. As
the group, led by Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.), was preparing to leave they were ambushed. Ryan, three American journalists and a Peoples Temple defector were killed. A dozen other people were injured. The incident was just hours prior to the deaths of
the cult members.
James Reston, Jr. at Jonestown, Guyana
Listen to the documentary in its entirety.
For more on the tragedy, listen as All Things Considered host Noah Adams talks with Deborah Layton, author of "Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple." She had
escaped Jonestown several months before, and tried to alert authorities to the
insanity and cruelty of life under the rule of Jim Jones.
Update, January 2015: Download or listen to an mp3 version of the 1998 All Things Considered segment here.