A demagogue, a massacre and the 'Road to Jonestown'

Cover for "The Road to Jonestown"
Cover for Jeff Guinn's new book, "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple."
Simon & Schuster

Jim Jones was a charismatic preacher, a vocal advocate for civil rights and a champion for the poor.

However, throughout his ministry his message evolved from being a messenger of a god to being God himself.

But at Jones' core he was human — and a troubled one at that.

He struggled with substance abuse, had extramarital affairs and was paranoid that dark forces were out to get him.

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Jones had amassed a following of people who either genuinely believed in his message of economic equality, integration and caring for the poor or who desperately needed his vision to come true.

On November 18, 1978, over 900 people died at Jonestown, the "utopia" that Jones had built. They were given Flavor Aid poisoned with cyanide. Most of the victims were black, many were elderly and around 300 of them were children.

Over the years the tragedy of that day has been boiled down to a cautionary warning "not to drink the Kool-Aid", but, as investigative journalist and writer Jeff Guinn learned, there's far more to the story than that.

Guinn spoke with MPR News Producer Marcheta Fornoff about those details and his new book "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple."

Use the audio player above to hear the full interview.