Black Religion

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Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America is an important collection of essays dealing with the impact of the African-American community on the Peoples Temple religious group. Some of the articles were published previously…

Introduction

Other essays were written specifically for this book. The various chapters thus bring together reflections on the Peoples Temple that span a twenty-five year time period. Contributors include African-American Studies specialists such as Milmon Harrison and Mary Sawyer as well as Religious Studies faculty including C. Eric Lincoln, Lawrence Mamiya, and Anthony Pinn. The book also includes chapters by Black pastors such as Muhammed Isaiah Kenyatta andj. Alfred Smith, Jr. Most of the writers attempt to revise the often-accepted view that the Peoples Temple was controlled by Jim Jones and other European-American leaders who exerted extensive charismatic control over a generally compliant and/or brainwashed African-American majority. This black majority (representing 67% of the population, for example, at Jonestown) was comprised of people who came predominately from the working classes of the southern United States and included twice as many women as men.
The Peoples Temple was a racially mixed and substantially black religious society within which—the writers contend—African-Americans had tremendous influence. The editors contend that this influence has been downplayed by most academics who have written about the Peoples Temple, largely because scholars tend to identify the Peoples Temple as a "New Religious Movement" and to operate within the theoretical framework within which such groups are customarily analyzed.
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