Graduate Theological Union

Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, and Black America

Dates: 
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 12:00pm

James L. Taylor, University of San Francisco

UC Berkeley Religion, Politics and Globalization Program Spring 2013 Lecture Series

223 Moses, UC Berkeley

This talk explores a line of inquiry that seeks to recover the "black dimension" of the Peoples Temple movement in California during the Civil Rights and Black Power era. From a full-length book project, this talk situates Peoples Temple within the context of concurrent trends in Southern and Northern California religious movements and development. Its controversial thesis claims that Peoples Temple, the movement, massacre, and aftermath were a first answer to the question posed in Martin Luther King's final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Taylor argues that chaos was chosen, and remains evident across many of the social, economic, and spiritual categories which King addresses in his book. A decade later, Peoples Temple portended the tragic turn in social policy such as the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

James Lance Taylor is Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at University of San Francisco. He is the author of Black Nationalism in the United States: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama, a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2011. He is co-editor and an author with Katherine Tate (UC Irvine) and Mark Sawyer (UCLA) of Something’s in the Air: Race and the Legalization of Marijuana (Routledge, 2013), focusing on controversies concerning race and marijuana legalization. His lecture draws on his current research into the Peoples Temple movement and African American political history.