Who Died is “a tribute to the mostly unknown members of the Peoples Temple who died in Jonestown, Georgetown, and Port Kaituma, Guyana” on November 18, 1978. Researcher and compiler Kathryn Barbour, who joined the Temple in 1972 with her companion Richard Tropp, was living in the San Francisco Temple at the time of the mass murder-suicides. Sadly, Tropp was added to the tragic victim list. The archival collection of more than 900 (mainly) passport headshots is the product of two Temple photographers who also died in Jonestown. Barbour states of the photographs: “They show the dead as I last saw them, in 1976-1977, when Peoples Temple was at the height of its influence in San Francisco, its members full of energy and confidence, most anticipating the move to Guyana.”
The second largest out of twenty documented mass murders (Ba Chuc in Vietnam being the first, according to Wikipedia), Jonestown will always stand out to those who remember it as one of the most misunderstood and shocking incidents of 1978. Even though the bulk of the book is taken up with pictures (over one-third children, 0-18), Barbour draws all readers—school age and beyond—to a heart-wrenching glimpse of Jonestown’s horrific closure: “men, women, and children ingesting potassium cyanide mixed into a vat of fruit punch and tranquilizers.” (The Jonestown Institute). Interestingly, the Temple’s leader, Rev. Jim Jones, died of gun wounds. As a result, Jonestown still remains a bit of an enigma in regards to “why he [Jones] planned and executed the slaughter and how he was able to mobilize a sufficient number of others, some armed with guns and syringes, to help him accomplish it…”
Barbour’s memorial album lists names alphabetically in the same order as the Memorial Plaques at the Evergreen Cemetery mass grave in Oakland, California, and includes a citation index and a cross-reference to name variations (since “many members’ names changed as a result of marriage, separation, adoption, or personal initiative”). While Barbour’s book raises awareness to an appalling piece of history, it also serves another purpose as an outreach “to survivors, victims’ relatives and descendants.”
The work of researching and compiling on the Jonestown Memorial site (www.jones-town.org/) and at The Jonestown Institute (jonestown.sdsu.edu/) is an ongoing process—one that requires constantly updating information. Good examples are the handful of messages replacing missing photos that request help in filling those frames.
In closing, a sign that graces the pavilion where the victims died captures the sentiment precisely: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sobering and thought provoking, Who Died is one book that should be viewed by all.