Angela Davis’ 1977 Statement to Jim Jones

Ran across this 1977 statement from Angela Davis that she phoned into Jim Jones just 14 months before the November 18, 1978 murders/suicides at Jonestown.

This statement is particularly pernicious as it was done during a particularly difficult time for the cult that the People’s Temple referred to as the Six Day Siege. Timothy Stoen had been a key figure in the Peoples Temple before he and his wife, Grace, left the movement (Grace left in July 1976, while Timothy left in February 1977).

Although the Stoen’s managed to safely defect, their then 5-year-old son, John, was left at the People’s Temple compound in Guyana. In September 1977, the Stoens were able to get a court order demanding that John be returned to Grace. As Wikipedia explains what happened next,

Jones staged a false sniper attack on himself and began a series of “White Night” rallies, called the “Six Day Siege”, where Jones told Temple members about attacks from outsiders and had members surround Jonestown with guns and machetes.

In her statement below, then, Davis is cravenly reinforcing Jones’ delusions and urging him to resist the “conspiracy” against him and the People’s Temple, precipitated by Timothy and Grace Stoen’s efforts to have their child returned safely to them.

Sadly, John Stoen–just 6 years old at the time–was one of the 918 people who were murdered or committed suicide at Jonestown in 1978.


This is Angela Davis. I would like to say to my friend Jim Jones and all my sisters and brothers from Peoples Temple who are in Guyana there: know that there are people here, not only in the San Francisco Bay Area but also across the country, who are supporting you, who are with you. I can personally speak for the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression in cities throughout the country, from Birmingham, Alabama to (inaudible) that there are people who are aware of the contributions of Peoples Temple to our efforts to, for example, free Rev. Ben Chavis and the Wilmington 10. We know that you have participated and brought people to all the marches and demonstrations, and thousands of petitions that have been sent to government officials have been circulated and signed by members of Peoples Temple. And so we are very deeply obligated to you for what you have done to further the fight for justice, to further the struggle against oppression, to further the fight against racism.

I know you are in a very difficult situation right now and there is a conspiracy. A very profound conspiracy designed to destroy the contributions which you have made to our struggle. And this is why I must tell you that we feel that we are under attack as well. When you are attacked, it is because of your progressive stand, and we feel that it is directly an attack against us as well. Therefore, more of us need to know that we will be carrying on this idea, that we will do everything in our power to ensure your safety and your ability to keep on struggling.

(In response to loud ovations to hundreds of people with Jim Jones in the Guyana interior, Angela states:) I attempted to say, though not very eloquently, that we are with you, and we appreciate everything you have done. And we know you are going to win, and, in the final analysis, we are all going to win.

Storing Data in DNA

Interesting article in Science looking at the current state of using DNA to for large-scale data storage. The articles notes that DNA storage would be,

Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks.

The article goes on to profile Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski who have worked to increase the density at which data can be stored in DNA. After converting a couple data files into binary and then splitting that into digital DNA strands,

They sent these as text files to Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco, California–based startup, which then synthesized the DNA strands. Two weeks later, Erlich and Zielinski received in the mail a vial with a speck of DNA encoding their files. To decode them, the pair used modern DNA sequencing technology. The sequences were fed into a computer, which translated the genetic code back into binary and used the tags to reassemble the six original files. The approach worked so well that the new files contained no errors, they report today in Science. They were also able to make a virtually unlimited number of error-free copies of their files through polymerase chain reaction, a standard DNA copying technique. What’s more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% the theoretical limit.

The cost, however, is still prohibitive. According to Science, “it cost $7000 to synthesize the 2 megabytes of data in the files, and another $2000 to read it.”