Why is the Jonestown Massarce of 1978 significant?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Jonestown Massacre is still the largest mass suicide in world history, and it was the greatest single non-military group death of U. S. citizens in American history prior to the terrorist bombings of September 11, 2001. Of the 918 people who died on November 18, 1978 at the rural People's Temple in Guyana and at two other locations, 907 died from drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid (similar to Kool Aid). The poisoning-suicide of the religious cult was ordered by the head of the People's Temple, the Reverend Jim Jones, who later committed suicide by handgun. Additionally, Jones apparently ordered the murder of a group of American observers at a nearby airstrip, including California Congressman Leo Ryan, "the first member of Congress assassinated in the line of duty in the history of the United States." Several other cult members were also murdered on Jones' orders, and several other members committed suicide in the nation's capital, Georgetown. Jones ordered the suicides after falsely believing that Congressman Ryan's report would call for the closing of the temple.

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