Maurice Bishop Day in Grenada Date in the current year: October 19, 2024

Maurice Bishop Day in Grenada Maurice Bishop Day is a public holiday in Grenada celebrated annually on October 19. It was created to honor the second prime minister of Grenada who was executed in 1983 along with several members of his cabinet.

The Caribbean nation of Grenada is a former British colony that was granted independence in 1974 with Eric Gairy as its first prime minister. Five years later, Gairy’s government was overthrown in a bloodless coup staged by the New JEWEL Movement, a Marxist-Leninist party led by Maurice Bishop.

Bishop’s political career began in 1962, when he founded the Grenada Assembly of Youth Fighting for Truth shortly before graduating from high school. He went on to study in London and travel to socialist Czechoslovakia and East Germany. During this period Bishop became interested in socialism through the works of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Julius Nyerere.

In 1973, Bishop became the leader of the newly established New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (New JEWEL Movement, NJM). From 1973 to 1979, the NJM was Grenada’s leading opposition party. In 1976, Bishop was elected to the House of Representatives and officially became Leader of the Opposition.

In March 1979, the NJM overthrew the government of Eric Gairy, suspended the constitution, and established the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), making Grenada the only socialist state in the Commonwealth of Nation. Bishop became the new prime minister of Grenada. Among the top priorities of the new government were the struggle against apartheid and racism, women’s rights, and worker’s rights. During Bishop’s tenure as prime minister, organizations for healthcare, education, and youth affairs were established.

Despite the PRG’s achievements, it stifled the opposition and the freedom of press, as well as refused to hold elections. However, Bishop’s downfall was caused not by popular discontent, but by internal disagreements within the party. When Bishop refused to step down or share power with deputy prime minister Bernard Coard, Coard launched a coup and placed Bishop under house arrest.

During a public demonstration demanding Bishop’s restoration to power, the crowd freed him. However, Bishop was soon captured along with seven of his supporters, including four cabinet ministers. They were executed by a firing squad on October 16, 1983. The location of Bishop’s remains is still unknown.

Following Bishop’s execution, Barbados, Jamaica, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States appealed to the United States for assistance. On October 25, the United States and a coalition of six Caribbean nations invaded Grenada in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury to restore political stability. Although the operation was criticized by many countries, in Grenada its anniversary is celebrated as a national holiday called Thanksgiving Day.

The government of Grenada declared Maurice Bishop’s execution anniversary a public holiday in 2022. The inaugural celebration of Maurice Bishop Day took place on October 19, 2023, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Bishop’s death. The day is marked by flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies, and other memorial events and activities.

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