When 914 members of Peoples Temple and four visiting Americans died in Guyana, South America on November 18, 1978, Laura Johnston Kohl survived. She was one of 87 who lived through the trauma.

After participating with the Black Panthers, and attending Woodstock, Laura moved into Peoples Temple in California in 1970, and was an active and enthusiastic member until it ended. She moved to Guyana in March 1977. She lived her first year in Georgetown, purchasing supplies, then moved to Jonestown, a 24-hour boat ride away. She moved back into Georgetown in October 1978. Laura’s survival was a fluke.

It took twenty years for Laura to rebuild her life and have the determination to research this tragedy. The first ten years were spent in Synanon. The next ten were spent getting her bilingual teaching credential and settling in with her family. At twenty years, she reunited with many of the other survivors to put the pieces together. In 2010, she published her book JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look.

Today, Laura is a writer, a bilingual teacher, on the Speakers’ Bureau of The Jonestown Institute, a bilingual international speaker, a Quaker, and a Board Member of the Communal Studies Association. She contributes to the annual Jonestown Report published by the Jonestown Institute as well as writing a monthly article for a local paper. She is helping set up a survivors’ visit to Jonestown with a documentary crew.

Contact her at to schedule talks.

Laura’s lectures cover such topics and issues as:
• Reflections on Peoples Temple
• Surviving tragedy and survivors’ guilt
• History – 1960s, 1970s and 1980s
• New Religious Movement
• Group (cult) dynamics – red flags
• Human Rights and activism
• Synanon – a residential community where Laura lived from 1980-1990
• Communal studies
• Sociology, Political Science, Psychology
• Bilingual education (Spanish-English)
• The cult of personality in leaders
• Quaker activism (Laura is a Quaker)
Laura’s recent presentations include:
• Grand Valley State University
• Numerous television, radio, magazine, and internet interviews
• U of Phoenix Authors’ Event
• University of San Francisco
• York College of Pennsylvania
• San Diego City Col., CSUSM and SDSU
• Book Talks at libraries across the US
• Peoples Temple Reflections at Service Clubs and Activist Group settings
• Mexico City Bilingual Book Talk
• Penn State University – Atherton Political Science, History, and Sociology
• Grossmont College
• Ricki Lake Show
• Puget Sound University
• Hawaii Pacific University
• Bay Area Book Festival
• Western Washington University
• Ben Modo Television, NYC
• BBC Interview for “Witness”
• Quaker venues around the US from Hawaii to Washington, D.C.
• Miramar Coll. Women’s History Month
• Communal Studies Assoc. Conferences at the Oneida Community, Amana, etc.

JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look is available in eBook, audio, and print at, iUniverse, Barnes & Noble. Visit her website: Listen to JONESTOWN SURVIVOR PODCAST at Photos at (Peoples Temple PhotoGallery)

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