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Jonestown Survivor: Laura Johnston Kohl: Home

This guide contains information about Ms. Johnston Kohl and her presentation at Arkansas Tech University on April 5, 2018

Lecture at Arkansas Tech

Don't Drink the Kool Aid: Advice from a Jonestown Survivor

Laura Johnston Kohl presented a lecture, Don't Drink the Kool Aid: Advice from a Jonestown Survivor, on the evening of April 5, 2018 at the Ross Pendergraft Library & Technology Center at Arkansas Tech University. Dr. Joshua Lockyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Tech, sought to bring Ms. Kohl to campus. Dr. Lockyer was familiar with her work and story as a fellow member of the Communal Studies Association where they both serve on the Board of Directors. The event began with a reception at 5:30 pm with people waiting to get into the room. The lecture began at 6:00 pm to a packed house including two overflow rooms. The event was streamed live to the other rooms and recorded. The recording will be available through this website shortly. 

The event was made possible by the following departments: flyer for  don't drink the kool aid

  • College of Arts & Humanities
  • The Department of Behavioral Sciences
  • The Department of History & Political Science 
  • The Ross Pendergraft Library

Bio - Laura Johnston Kohl

laura husband and son guyana 2018When 914 members of Peoples Temple and four visiting Americans, including Congressman Leo Ryan, died in Guyana, South America on November 18, 1978, Laura Johnston Kohl survived.  She was one of 87 who lived through the trauma. 

After attending Woodstock, and participating with the Black Panthers, Laura moved into Peoples Temple in California in 1970, and was an active, enthusiastic member until it ended.  She moved to Guyana, South America, in March 1977, and lived her first year in the capital, Georgetown, purchasing supplies. She then moved to Jonestown, a 24-hour boat ride away. She moved back to Georgetown in October 1978. Laura’s survival was a fluke.

It took twenty years for Laura to rebuild her life. She spent the first ten years in Synanon and the next ten getting her BA & bilingual teaching credential, and settling in with her family. Then, she reunited with many other survivors. In 2010, she published her first book Jonestown Survivor: An Insider's Look

Laura is on the Advisory Committee at the California Historical Society for the Peoples Archives and on the Speakers’ Bureau of The Jonestown Institute. She is currently beginning on her second book. She recently returned from a visit to Jonestown - her first visit back in 40 years.

She is a bilingual teacher, a Quaker, and a Board Member of the Communal Studies Association. and temporary Co-Editor of a Communal Societies Journal and 2017 Jonestown report.

Photo Above: Laura's son, Laura, and husband in Guyana, March 2018.

Contact info: to schedule talks.

Presentation Video