WGBH Openvault

American Experience; Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple


Home Video Master, Anamorphic

License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

American Experience
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered October 1988 As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Now in its eighteenth season, the series has produced over 180 programs and garnered every major broadcast award. Series release date: 10/1988

Program Description

On November 17, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to an isolated rain forest in Guyana to investigate the concerns of his San Francisco-area constituents. Their alarming stories focused on a jungle compound known as Jonestown, a group called the Peoples Temple and its leader, Jim Jones. According to news filtering back to America, U.S. citizens were being held against their will in prison camp conditions. There were allegations of physical and sexual abuse and even rumors of a planned mass suicide. Congressman Ryan, an impassioned human rights advocate, decided to get the facts for himself. Within 48 hours, Ryan, Jones and over 900 Jonestown settlers were dead -- casualties of the largest mass murder-suicide in history. In the next few days, grizzly details of cyanide-laced fruit punch and disturbing images of children poisoned by their parents emerged from the jungle. "American Experience" goes beyond the salacious headlines to provide a revealing portrait of Jones, his followers and the times that produced the calamity in the Guyanese jungle, told by the people who know the story firsthand: Jonestown survivors, Temple defectors, relatives of the dead and journalists.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “American Experience; Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple,” 01/05/2007, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 25, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_0783B0711ADC4A95A295AAA1DFD10D2E.
MLA: “American Experience; Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.” 01/05/2007. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 25, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_0783B0711ADC4A95A295AAA1DFD10D2E>.
APA: American Experience; Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_0783B0711ADC4A95A295AAA1DFD10D2E
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.