It was Flavor-Aid.

In the 1960s, the Temple established nine residential care facilities for the elderly and six homes for foster children in the Redwood Valley. Peoples Temple / Jonestown Gallery/flickr

Note: Topic and some photographs offer extreme/disturbing images. 

Introduction & context: In November of 1978, 918 people perished (primarily by their own hand) in a remote jungle in South America. The event rocked the United States, bringing the word ‘cult’ to mainstream culture and inspiring the callous aphorism: ‘don’t drink the Kool-Aid.’ These people, along with many others, were part of a social organization/church called ‘The Peoples Temple,’ founded by James Warren Jones. 

The passing of time and the hindsight of the ‘final day’ has overshadowed the initial intentions behind the movement. This lesson explores the reasons people were drawn too/joined the Temple, its evolution, and ultimate collapse.

This lesson examines multiple documents that span the chronology of the Peoples Temple and present the different ‘faces’ it possessed. 

The documents will help build a more personal narrative, rather than a reduction of popular culture. This allows students to think critically about who the individuals in The Peoples Temple were, and their motivations in joining and staying with the group, despite its extreme decline. 

I will ask the students to think about what was happening in the United States and why that is a significant factor. 

It is ultimately an exploration of how the systematic racism and stratification built into the fabric of the American system is largely responsible for the deaths of these people. 

Essential question: What reasons did the people of Jonestown have for joining the temple and why did they ultimately die because of it? Does American society hold culpability? If so, in what way(s)?

Assignment: Students will be exposed to multiple primary source documents and, drawing their own conclusions, asked to critically respond to the essential questions above in a short essay.

Members of Peoples Temple join the picket line in an anti-eviction protest at San Francisco’s International Hotel in January 1977. Peoples Temple/Jonestown Gallery/Courtesy Nancy Wong
  1. From looking at the image, what do you think some of the core values of The Peoples Temple were?
  2. Were they successful?
The Peoples Temple Choir in San Francisco, 1974.
  1. What is the message of this song?
  2. What do you feel when you hear it?
Letter from Annie Moore to her family. Original Source: California Historical Society
  1. What is Annie Moore saying in this letter?
  2. Does it change any opinions you may have had about the Peoples Temple?
A Peoples Temple member with children in the Nursery of the sectin 1978. (AFP/Getty Images)
Children from all races were raised together. This image reflects one of the core values of the Peoples Temple: racial equality.
Jim Jones with a Peoples Temple Member. California Historical Society.
David “Pop” Jackson, with Rev. James Edwards in Background, Jonestown, Guyana. California Historical Society.
‘Pop’ Jackson, pictured above, oral history. Taken from Stories From Jonestown. Fondakowski, Leigh. 2013
  1. What mood does this picture convey?
  1. Describe these poems. What are they saying?
Oral History Interview, Don Beck. Alternative Considerations on Jonestown
Jones’ Final Speech.
  1. What is happening in this tape?
  2. There are multiple voices. What are the sentiments of the people involved?
  1. The graphic and disturbing aftermath.
Nell Smart, former Temple Member. Taken from Stories From Jonestown. Fondakowski, Leigh. 2013

Overlooked Perspectives: the Lewis and Clark Expedition


This lesson is designed for an eighth grade social studies class.  It is intended that this lesson be taught during a unit focusing on the historical events in North America at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the days leading up to this lesson, students will have investigated the Louisiana Purchase and how it pertained to Thomas Jefferson’s request that Meriwether Lewis carry out the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Students will have analyzed why President Jefferson asked Congress for “the appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States.”

It is expected that students will have foundational knowledge using the word ‘bias’ and will have some experience differentiating primary and secondary sources prior to this lesson.

Guiding Question

What perspectives might be missing from our understanding of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition?

Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:

-Describe the difference between primary and secondary sources.

-Describe how perspective and bias affect how we understand history.

-Investigate why the Lewis and Clark Expedition might be viewed differently by Native Americans, and non-Native Americans.


The lesson investigates five different documents associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition. The first three documents are aligned with an incident that occurred between Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the Umatilla Tribe near the Umatilla River in Oregon. The fourth document is a painting titled Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia (1905). The fifth document prompts students to think about the perspective of Clark’s slave, York.

This lesson follows a “we do, you do” format. The first document is a reading from Clark’s journal and may prove to be confusing for eighth graders. Consider reading and interpreting the first source together as a class. Have students work on their own, or with a partner for the remaining four documents.

This activity’s documents and the corresponding reflection questions have been organized into two google documents that you’ll find here. Print out one of each for every student.


Students will be assessed on their sourcing and contextualization skills as they pertain to the questions associated with each document. At the end of the activity students will be expected to turn in their worksheet with all three questions answered for the five documents.

Document 1

This is a reading from William Clark’s journal on October 19, 1805

“I Delayed at the foot of the rapid about 2 hours for the Canoes which I could See met with much difficuelty in passing down the rapid on the oposit Side maney places the men were obliged to get into the water and haul the canoes over Sholes—while Setting on a rock wateing for Capt Lewis I Shot a Crain which was flying over of the common kind. I observed a great number of Lodges on the opposit Side at Some distance below and Several Indians on the opposit bank passing up to where Capt. Lewis was with the Canoes, others I Saw on a knob nearly opposit to me at which place they delayed but a Short time before they returned to their Lodges as fast as they could run, I was fearfull that those people might not be informed of us, I deturmined to take the little Canoe which was with me and proceed with the three men in it to the Lodges, on my aproach not one person was to be Seen except three men off in the plains, and they Sheared off as I aproached near the Shore, I landed in front of five Lodges which was at no great distance from each other, Saw no person the enteranc or Dores of the Lodges wer Shut with the Same materials of which they were built a mat, I approached one with a pipe in my hand entered a lodge which was the nearest to me found 32 persons men, women and a few children Setting permiscuesly in the Lodg, Some in the greatest agutation, Some crying and ringing there hands, others hanging their heads. I gave my hand to them all and made Signs of my friendly dispotion and offered the men my pipe to Smok and distributed a fiew Small articles which I had in my pockets,—this measure passified those distressed people verry much, I then Sent one man into each lodge and entered a Second myself the inhabitants of which I found more fritened than those of the first lodge I destributed Sundrey Small articles amongst them, and Smoked with the men, I then entered the third 4h & fifth Lodge which I found Somewhat passified, the three men Drewer Jo. & R. Fields, haveing useed everey means in their power to convince them of our friendly disposition to them, I then formd Set my Self on a rock and made Signs to the men to come and Smoke with me not one Come out untill the Canoes arrived with Some five Came out of each Lodge and Set by me and Smoked Capt Lewis at the 2 Chiefs, one of whom spoke aloud, and as was their Custom to all we had passed the Indians came out & Set by me and Smoked They said we came from the clouds &c &c which the and were not men &c. &c. this time Capt. Lewis came down with the Canoes rear in which the Indians, as Soon as they Saw the Squar wife of the interperters wife [Sacagawea] they pointed to her and informed those who continued yet in the Same position I first found them, they imediately all came out and appeared to assume new life, the sight of This Indian woman, wife to one of our interprs. confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter.”

Document 1:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 2

The second document is a reading from a book titled, Lewis and Clark among the Indians, written by J.P Ronda and published in 1984.

“As the expedition continued down the Columbia and neared the mouth of the Umatilla River, Indian reactions began to change dramatically. The welcomes offered by Cutssahnem and Yelleppit vanished and were replaced first by fear and then by ill-concealed hostility. That fear became evident during the afternoon of October 19 as the explorers left Walula territory and entered that occupied by Umatillas. Throughout the afternoon, the men saw hastily abandoned villages and frightened Indians. “At our approach,” said Clark, “they hid themselves in their Lodges and not one was to be seen until we passed.” Although the expedition’s records offer no straightforward explanation for this sudden shift in native attitudes, an event later in that afternoon does suggest how Indians with little or no contact with whites responded to the expedition.

As Clark was walking on shore with a small party that included Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and the Nez Perce guides, he idly shot a crane. Clark thought no more about the incident. A cluster of mat lodges in the distance seemed more worthy of attention. Indians from those lodges were spotted running in terror back to their village. Anxious to quiet the Umatillas’ fears, Clark decided to take Drouillard and the Field brothers on a visit. Once at the settlement, they found five mat houses with their doors firmly shut. Pipe in hand, Clark pushed his way into the first lodge and found thirty-two men, women, and children “in the greatest agutation.” As the Indians cried, wrung their hands, and lowered their heads in preparation for death, Clark struggled to allay their fears. Handshaking, a proffered pipe, and gifts eventually soothed them. He repeated the performance at the other lodges and, with the help of the Nez Perce chiefs and the presence of Sacagawea, terror passed into what he claimed was “greatest friendship.” Then the Umatillas spilled out the reason for their fear. As Clark explained it later to Nicholas Biddle, “The alarm was occasioned by their thinking that we were supernatural and came down from the clouds.” The Umatilla perception of Lewis and Clark as sky gods had been sparked by Clark’s random killing of the crane. “These shots (having never heard a gun), a few light clouds passing, the fall of the birds and our immediately landing and coming towards them convinced them we were from above.”

 As the expedition moved closer to Celilo Falls and The Dalles, the Indians continued to show signs of fear and distrust. Perhaps the outsiders were identified with Paiute warriors who frequently raided in the region. For whatever reason, the river people traded warily with Lewis and Clark. Ordway recalled that these Indians acted “as if they were in fear of us.”

Document 2:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 3

The third document is an excerpt from the book Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes written by Roberta Conner: an author who is descended from the Umatilla Tribe.

“This place in the Columbia River Plateau is our home. Our people have always been here in what are now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. How long is always? As far back as our oral histories recall. Back to when the landforms were created, back to the end of the cold times, back to the floods, back to the time when the mountains hurled rocks and fire at each other, back to when the animals held council and taught us how to live here. Our covenants on how to exist in this homeland are ancient. From the animals, plants, waterways and the cycles provided by the seasons, we learned what to eat, where to live at different times of the year, how to heal ourselves and take care of one another. Our traditional laws, still in place, never replaced or superceded, tell us how to take care of the gifts from the Creator. In our cultures, children are sacred as are all the beings made by the creator. That is the age-old context into which Lewis and Clark arrived in 1805. By virtue of their saying so, these newcomers proclaimed we were children to their Great Father. Not so. We were and are children of this landscape that sustains us and upon which we have depended for eons. They did not speak our languages. They shot a crane flying by for no reason apparent to onlookers. They entered a closed door without seeking permission.

Then, Clark writes that we said, undoubtedly by way of signs, they came from the clouds and are other than men—godlike? Perhaps Clark’s own sense of superiority and dominance has run away with his imagination.”

Document 3:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Is there any bias associated with this document?

Document 4

Painting titled Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia, 1905.

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926); Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia; 1905

Document 4:

1. Using the internet, what information can you find on this painting?

2. Is there any bias associated with this painting?

3. Does this painting realistically represent the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

Document 5

The fifth document is an excerpt from a publication written by Darrell Millner from Portland State University. The document interprets the role of Clark’s slave, York, and his contributions to the expedition.

“ Joining the two captains and the soldiers they had recruited for the expedition was York, Clark’s black slave… The western frontier has always been notable for its interracial and intercultural complexity, and the Corps of Discovery reflected that reality… One of the most interesting and useful stories to emerge about the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition is that of York, who participated fully in the journey and contributed in significant ways to its success.”

Document 5:

1. What do you know about the source and author of this document?

2. Is this a primary or secondary source? How do you know?

3. Why do you think people might be more familiar with Lewis and Clark’s roles in the expedition and less familiar with York’s role?


After students have had sufficient time to read and reflect on each document, ask students if they have any questions or comments that they’d like to bring up in a classroom discussion. As time permits, have students summarize their experiences and responses to the documents.

Examining the Dark Side of Dr. Seuss: A Legendary Children’s Author Worth a Reconsideration?

Featured image from PICRYL.

Introduction & context: This document-based lesson (DBL) has students look at a collection of offensive drawings by Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. The first three images that students work with are political cartoons created during World War II, notably after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In these political cartoons, Dr. Seuss uses many offensive Japanese stereotypes while perpetuating anti-Japanese hostility in the United States. The first image is a caricature of Hideki Tojo with racially exaggerated features, while the other pictures fearmonger to promote Japanese internment. The final two pictures in this lesson are cartoons that have racist depictions of Africans and African Americans due to overemphasized pitch-black skin, big lips, as well as other exaggerated racial elements. These cartoons were created around the 1930s when overt racism was widely accepted and practiced in the United States. Due to the offensive nature of these images, this lesson is best suited for high schoolers, particularly upperclassmen.

To ensure that students have historical context, this learning activity is best timed for after, or during a unit about World War II. Students should also have at least a general understanding of the history of racism in the United States.


Essential question: How should the works of Dr. Seuss, as well as Dr. Seuss himself, be remembered in history?

Assignment: Before starting the main activity, students will be asked the following questions: “What is your experience with Dr. Seuss’ books? Do you like them? Which are your favorite? Is there anything else you know about him?” Students will informally answer these questions in a “think-pair-share” format. Once this is done, students will be given the essential question for today. Then, students will move on to the activity for today which has students look at a collection of racist drawings created by Dr. Seuss. Students will be given a set of scaffolding questions for each picture to answer on a separate piece of paper, or in a Google Document. Once students examine each document, they will be given the essential question to answer on their own; this is done individually on the document they used to answer the scaffolding questions. The scaffolding questions involve a mix of sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, as well as close reading historical thinking skills.

Cartoon 1


How is Dr. Seuss’ perspective toward Japanese portrayed in this cartoon?

What is Dr. Seuss trying to accomplish, and how is he doing it?

How might circumstances in the United States have affected the exaggerated racial elements in this cartoon?

Cartoon 2


Which historical event do you think this cartoon was created in response to?

How, and which biases does Dr. Seuss express in this cartoon?

What claims does Dr. Seuss make in this cartoon? How does this relate to what really happened in history?

Cartoon 3


What kind of symbols and images does Dr. Seuss use, and why?

How does this cartoon compare to cartoons 1 and 2?

Are cartoons 1-3 reliable?

Cartoon 4


What do you think is happening in this cartoon? What kind of source (newspaper, advertisement, etc.) do you think this this?

How does this cartoon’s portrayal of Africans indicate Dr. Seuss’ racial perspective?

What kind of symbols and images are used by Dr. Seuss to express his beliefs on race?

Cartoon 5


What is Dr. Seuss trying to convey in this cartoon? Hint: look at the other panels!

Who do you think the intended audience was for this cartoon?

How does this cartoon compare to cartoon 4? What is being emphasized, and why are these features emphasized?

Once students finish examining the cartoons with the scaffolding questions, there will be a group check-in to make sure that students are doing okay emotionally. These are very disturbing images, so a wellbeing check after the activity (as well as during) is necessary. Students will then be asked to answer the essential question on their own:

How should the works of Dr. Seuss, as well as Dr. Seuss himself, be remembered in history?

Bad Blood: Historical Document Review of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Historical Context: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study began in Macon County, Alabama in 1932. This was during the Great Depression in the deep south, an area where Black sharecroppers worked tirelessly for low-pay. Jim Crow laws, segregation, and racial prejudice were a huge part of daily life for the poor and often uneducated workers in this area.

At this same time, syphilis was a disease spreading rampantly around the world. This Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) would begin with painful sores and eventually, if left untreated, move on to attack the nervous system, including the brain, nerves, eyes and heart. There was no proven treatment for the disease. Researchers from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) theorized that the disease affected the nervous system of white people more often, and the cardiovascular system of Black people. There was little evidence for this, however there are many examples throughout history of the same sorts of racial prejudice in the medical field. In order to study this theory further, PHS researchers found a group of men in Macon County to test their hypothesis on.

600 men were selected for this study. 399 were identified to have syphilis and 201 did not test positive for the disease. The purpose of this PHS study was to compare untreated syphilis in the group of 399 against the group of 201 who did not have the disease and study the differences over their lifetimes. The group of the 399 participants were not told they had syphilis, instead being told they had “bad blood” and would receive free treatment through this study. The purpose of the study was never explained to the participants, which is a practice researchers call giving the participants Informed Consent.

In 1942 penicillin was first developed for widespread use. In 1947, the antibiotic was identified as an effective treatment for syphilis. PHS researchers in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study decided at this time not to provide the men in their experiment with penicillin, which would have cured their disease, instead continuing to give them a placebo in place of any real treatment.

In the mid-1960s a PHS disease investigator named Peter Buxton found out about this study. He reported to his superiors that he was concerned with the ethical and moral issues apparent. Supervisors at PHS reviewed the case, but ultimately decided to continue to continue the study. As men identified in the original study were dying, their bodies would be collected and autopsied by PHS, and the findings were determined too important to stop the study.

Peter Buxton continued to feel uneasy about what was happening, and contacted Jean Heller, a reporter for the Associated Press. Jean Heller broke the story in 1972, and amid a massive public outcry, the study was disbanded. To this day it is unknown how many people were affected by this disease which has been treatable since 1947.

Further Information and Context:

  1. Tuskegee University article “About the USPHS Syphilis Study”
  2. article “Tuskegee Experiment: The Infamous Syphilis Study”
  3. Newsy video “The Unknowns about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study
  4. TedEd video “Ugly History: The U.S. Syphilis Experiment- Susan M. Reverby

Essential Questions:

  1. When should an individual take a stand against what they believe to be an injustice? What are the most effective ways to do this?
  2. What are the causes and consequences of prejudice and how does an individual or group’s response to it reveal their morals, ethics, and values?
  3. How do racial stereotypes influence how we understand the world?
  4. When is it moral for scientists to study on human subjects, if the findings are “for the greater good?” Who determines what the greater good is?

Assignment: This lesson will utilize the historical thinking skills of sourcing and contextualization. Students will be asked to review images and text which assess their critical thinking skills of how a source provides a perspective on an historical event, how time and place influence a historical document, and how historical documents shape our understanding of history. Students will respond to guiding questions provided for each resource which will ultimately tie back to the larger themes presented in the essential questions.

Document One: Experiment Draft Report pages 1 and 2

Examine the pages of this draft report on the study. What is the purpose of the study as stated? What could be reasons for the edits in pencil? What jumps out at you as interesting about the edits? When was this report written and what do we know about the treatment of syphilis by this date?

Image courtesy of Picryl
Image courtesy of Picryl

Document Two: Classification Data

This is a classification set of data for the experiment, outlining factors of the men involved in the experiment. When was this data published and what do we know about the treatment of syphilis at this time, and the ethics concerns raised at the PHS by this time? What questions does this document raise about deaths as a result of this study? Since we know syphilis is sexually transmitted, what questions does this document raise about total deaths as a result of this study? Does this document give us any insight into how the researchers viewed the participants of this study?

Image courtesy of Picryl

Document Three: Images of Participants

What do we know about the lives of the men who participated in this study? How might the circumstances of living in the deep South under Jim Crow laws have influenced the ability of these men to advocate for themselves, or even to understand the purpose of the study? In these images the men are seen picking cotton. How can we compare and contrast the system of slavery with the syphilis study in the context of access to and ownership over the bodies of Black people?

Image courtesy of Picryl
Image courtesy of Picryl

Document Four: Memorandum re Termination of the Study and Thank You to Study Participants

How does (if at all) the Memorandum document address the reasons for the termination of this study? What do we know about the article written by Jean Heller and how this memo is a response to the publishing of that article? How do the memo and thank you certificate compare and contrast based on the date they were published in telling us how the U.S. government felt about this study?

Image courtesy of Picryl
Image courtesy of Picryl

Document Five: Interview Transcript and Images of Participants

How does this interview transcript give us more insight into the way the participants of the study were deceived or mislead about the purpose of the study? What do we know about the shots, spinals, and treatments given to the groups identified to have syphilis? Why are the details about the man who went blind important in the context of the study and of the symptoms of untreated syphilis?

Image courtesy of Picryl
Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of Picryl
Image courtesy of Picryl. Woman on the right identified as Nurse Eunice Rivers.

Final Thoughts:

An assignment of this sort may lend itself to shorter writing samples from the leading questions above each image, or possibly a longer essay responding to one of the essential questions. Students would be encouraged to connect this event to others in history and research further on questions which arise for them during the lesson (student questions are always preferable to the ones I come up with!). Students may also want to do some further reading on the participants of this study, and this CBS article from 2017 from the family members of participants may be a good place to start.