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An Insider’s Look at Jonestown

on NOVEMBER 21, 2014

jonestownbookThirty-four years after Jonestown, the repercussions of the mass suicide in Guyana still resonate. Over 900 members of the People’s Temple and four visiting Americans – including a member of the U.S. House of Representatives – died literally “drinking the kool-aid.”

For Laura Kohl, a survivor of the Peoples Temple calamity, it was as personal as it could be. An idealist and activist for civil rights, Kohl met Jim Jones, the head of the People’s Temple, and joined the cult first in California, later following the messianic leader to South America. Her survival was a “fluke” she says today, of the November 18, 1978 Jonestown tragedy.

She will tell her story Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Healdsburg Regional Library, at 11:00 am, sponsored by the Friends of the Healdsburg Library.


Kohl was an enthusiastic and active member of the  Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an  internationally notorious community led by Jim Jones, and moved with them to Georgetown, Guyana, to help create a new Utopia. She was there when nearly a thousand members of the community committed suicide – or were serially murdered – at Jones’ orders. California congressman Leo Ryan was at the island “utopia” when the self-ordained Rev. Jones ordered the distribution of cyanide to the men, women and children of the community. Only 87 survived, including Laura Johnston Kohl.

It took 20 years after the tragedy for her to rebuild her life, and another 10 years  to write her autobiography Jonestown Survivor: an Insider’s Look. Today, Kohl remains in contact with her fellow survivors. She is a parent, a Quaker, an activist, a public speaker and a teacher. She has received many awards for her work, and continues to speak at public gatherings across the nation.

The event at 11 am is free and open to all, Saturday morning at the Healdsburg Regional Library, 139 Piper St. Kohl continues up to the Cloverdale Regional Library the same day to speak there at 2:30 pm, 401 N. Cloverdale Blvd.

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