May 29, 1944
October 19, 1983
Maurice Bishop was born in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, the last child and only son among three children born to Grenadians Rupert and Alimenta La Grenade Bishop. In 1951 the Bishops returned to a Grenada in political ferment, due largely to the grant of universal adult suffrage that year. The family settled in Saint George's, Grenada's capital, where Rupert operated a number of successful small businesses.
Maurice attended the Wesley Hall Primary School and the Saint George's Roman Catholic Primary School, where in 1957 he won a scholarship to the Presentation Brothers College. There, he excelled in English, history, and literature and became an avid follower of the international anticolonial movement. In 1962 Bishop was awarded the Principal's medal for public speaking.
In 1963 Bishop left for England, where he studied law at the University of London's Holborn College. He became involved in radical student politics, serving as president of the West Indian Students' Society and joining the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. He also cofounded a legal aid clinic for London's West Indian community. In 1969 he completed his legal training at Grey's Inn and returned to Grenada in 1970.
Bishop plunged into local politics and participated at all levels of opposition to Eric Gairy's government both before and after Grenada's independence in 1974. In 1973 Bishop's Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP) merged with the Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education and Liberation (JEWEL) to form the New JEWEL Movement (NJM) and the National Liberation Army (NLA), its secret military wing. Bishop and other NJM leaders were often victims of state-sponsored political violence.
In 1976 Bishop was elected to the Grenada assembly as a member of the People's Alliance. On March 13, 1979, he was one of the leading revolutionaries who toppled Gairy's government and became the head of Grenada's People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). Bishop's government developed close diplomatic relations with Cuba, Nicaragua, Jamaica (under Michael Manley), the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe. In Grenada itself, his doctrinaire Marxist government experimented with innovations in participatory democracy that were different from the Westminster-style model to which the Anglophone Caribbean has been socialized.
By 1983, however, internecine conflict within the People's Revolutionary Government over ideological and other differences led to open violence. On October 19, Bishop and several government ministers loyal to him were assassinated at Fort Rupert, Saint George's. A week later, Grenada was invaded by U.S.-led forces to restore order.
Maurice Bishop presided over an unprecedented, idealistic episode in the history of the Anglophone Caribbean, when an elected government was overthrown by extraconstitutional methods, and which, after beginning with high expectations, ended in tragedy. To this day, Bishop's remains have never been identified. He was an iconic, albeit controversial figure in contemporary Grenada. The highway leading to the Point Salines International Airport, easily the most visible public works project undertaken during his four-year government, is named Maurice Bishop Highway.
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c. m. jacobs (2005)