Bishop, Maurice (1944–1983)

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Bishop, Maurice (1944–1983)

Maurice Bishop was raised in a family of meager means in Grenada. He eventually rose to become the country's prime minister, then was murdered in a series of events that precipitated U.S. intervention. Bishop studied law in London, where he became interested in leftist politics and fascinated with the Black Power movement. Upon his return to Grenada in 1973, the charismatic Bishop founded the New Jewel Movement (NJM), a Marxist political party. He was elected to parliament, and for several years served as the opposition leader in Grenada's House of Representatives, where he was a vocal critic of strongman Prime Minister Eric Gairy and his government. In 1979 Bishop used Gairy's trip to the United Nations as an opportunity to stage a coup, and quickly moved to declare himself prime minister and suspend the constitution and parliament. All parties other than the NJM were outlawed while Bishop ruled by decree.

Once in power, Bishop set out to invigorate Grenada's economy. His efforts were aided by Cuba, the Soviet Union, and later the Nicara-guan Sandinistas. A crucial goal of Bishop's government was the construction of an airstrip, justified under the pretext of increasing tourism to the tiny English-speaking island. This raised tensions with the United States, which viewed the 9,000-foot runway as a conduit for infiltration of the Caribbean by Cuba and the Soviet Union. Bishop found himself in an increasingly difficult position, with the election of the tough anticommunist president Ronald Regan in the United States, on the one hand, and the uncompromising Marxist-Leninists in his own cabinet on the other. On 19 October 1983, Bishop and several of his supporters were rounded up by the military supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard (b. 1944), lined up against a wall, and shot. Six days later, after almost continuous curfew, the United States intervened with 6,000 Marines to reinstate order in Grenada. Maurice Bishop's four-year reign marked the end of socialist movements in the Caribbean.

See alsoGrenada; New Jewel Movement.


Bhola, Ron. "Grenada Struggles with Its Past." BBC news. October 30, 2003. Available from

Williams, Gary. "Prelude to an Intervention: Grenada 1983." Journal of Latin American Studies 29, no. 1 (February 1997): 131-169.

Woodward, Bob. Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981–1987. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

                                             Sean H. Goforth