Bernard Coard

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Winston Bernard Coard
Prime Minister of Grenada
In office
14 October 1983 – 19 October 1983
Preceded byMaurice Bishop
Succeeded byHudson Austin (as Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council)
Personal details
Born (1944-08-10) 10 August 1944 (age 79)
Victoria, Grenada
Political partyNew Jewel Movement (until 1983)
Spouse(s)Phyllis Coard, m. 1967
EducationGrenada Boys' Secondary School; Brandeis University; University of Sussex

Winston Bernard Coard (born 10 August 1944) is a Grenadian politician who was Deputy Prime Minister in the People's Revolutionary Government of the New Jewel Movement. Coard launched a coup within the revolutionary government and took power for three days until he was himself deposed by General Hudson Austin.


Bernard Coard, the son of Frederick McDermott Coard (1893–1978) and Flora Fleming (1907–2004),[1] was born in Victoria, Grenada, and is a first cousin of Hon. Mr Justice Dunbar Cenac, Registry of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; Hon. Mr Justice Dunbar Cenac's late father, Francis (Kimby) Cenac and the late Flora Coard were biological children of the late Isabella Cenac (née Fletcher). Coard is also the nephew of the late Hon. Mr Justice Dennis Cenac, the last of Isabella Cenac's eight children.

Coard was attending the Grenada Boys' Secondary School when he met Maurice Bishop, who was then attending Presentation Brothers' College. Coard and Bishop shared an interest in left-wing politics from an early age. They became friends and in 1962 they joined to found the Grenada Assembly of Youth After Truth. Twice per month, the two would lead political debates in St. George's Central Market Place.

Coard moved to the United States, where he studied sociology and economics at Brandeis University and joined the Communist Party USA. In 1967, he moved to England and studied political economy at the University of Sussex. That year, he married his wife Phyllis while they were students in England,[2] and Coard joined the Communist Party of Great Britain there.

Teaching career[edit]

He worked for two years as a schoolteacher in London and ran several youth organisations in South London. In 1971 he published a 50-page book How the West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain.[3] The book explained that British schools had a pervasive bias toward treating white children as normal, which led to black children being labelled as "educationally subnormal" (learning-disabled). Coard wrote:

The [black] children are therefore made neurotic about their race and culture. Some become behaviour problems as a result. They become resentful and bitter at being told their language is second-rate, and their history and culture is non-existent; that they hardly exist at all, except by the grace of whites.

Coard's thesis was widely cited, even long after his revolutionary career, as a summary of the role of institutional racism in the relationship between race and intelligence. In 2005, it was republished as the central article in the collection Tell it Like it is: How Our Schools Fail Black Children. A 2021 BBC One documentary Subnormal: A British Scandal describes the events surrounding the racism of a leaked school report, leading to the publication of Coard's book.[4][5] Produced/directed by Lyttanya Shannon, and executive produced by Steve McQueen,[6] the film features interviews with people who were put into ESN schools, and activists, academics and psychologists and others who worked to expose the scandal at the time, such as Gus John, Waveney Bushell,[7][8] as well as with Coard.[9] He concluded that, 50 years after the ESN scandal was exposed, "the substance ... of the educational suppression of Caribbean-origin children remains".[10]

After completing his doctorate at Sussex, Coard moved to Trinidad, where he was a visiting lecturer at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, from 1972 to 1974. He also lectured from 1974 to 1976 at the Mona, Jamaica, campus of the University of the West Indies. During his stay in Jamaica, he joined the communist Worker's Liberation League and helped draft the League's manifesto.


In 1976, Coard returned to Grenada, soon becoming active in Grenadian politics. Soon after returning home he joined the New Jewel Movement (NJM), his childhood friend's left-wing organisation, and ran for and won a parliamentary seat in St. George's in the 1976 elections.

The NJM, led by Maurice Bishop, successfully led a bloodless coup against Eric Gairy's government on 13 March 1979. The radio station, military barracks and police stations were targeted. Before long, they had control of the entire island. The NJM then announced the temporary suspension of the constitution and parliamentary rule.

Influenced by Marxists such as Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro, Bishop's NJM established a revolutionary government in Grenada. Aid from Cuba allowed the NJM to build Point Salines International Airport, an international airport with a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway in St. George's. In 1980, Coard was the head of a delegation to Moscow to formalise relations with the Soviet Union.

Removal and murder of Bishop[edit]

Bernard Coard was serving as the revolutionary government's Minister of Finance, Trade and Industry, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister under Bishop.[11]

It is alleged that Coard ordered Bishop to be put under house arrest on 19 October 1983[citation needed] and took control of the government.[12] As word of Bishop's arrest spread, large demonstrations broke out in many places. A demonstration in the capital led to Bishop being freed from house arrest by the demonstrators, making their way to the army headquarters at Fort Rupert (known today as Fort George). However, Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers of the government, were killed shortly after under unresolved circumstances. Coard was in turn ousted by General Hudson Austin, who nominally ruled the country for six days.

Just after Marines landed in Grenada, Coard, along with his wife Phyllis, Selwyn Strachan, John Ventour, Liam James and Keith Roberts, were arrested.

Trial and prison[edit]

They were tried in August 1986 on charges of ordering the murder of Maurice Bishop and seven others.[citation needed] Coard was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991. He served his sentence in Richmond Hill Prison, where he was engaged in teaching and instructing fellow inmates in many subjects, including economics and sociology.

In September 2004, the prison in which he was held was damaged by Hurricane Ivan and many inmates took the opportunity to flee, but Coard said he chose not to escape, saying he would not leave until his name was cleared.[13]


On 7 February 2007, the London-based Privy Council ordered a re-sentencing of Coard and the others convicted for the 1983 killing of Bishop and some of his cabinet colleagues.[14] The re-sentencing hearing began on 18 June 2007. On 27 June, the judge gave Coard and his fellow defendants a 30-year sentence, which included the time already spent in prison. On 5 September 2009, Coard was released from prison.[15] Upon release he said he did not want to be involved in politics again.[16]

Bernard Coard has three children.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin, J. M. (2007). A–Z of Grenada Heritage. Oxford, UK: Macmillan Caribbean.
  2. ^ Virtue, Erica (13 September 2020). "Remembering revolutionist Phyllis Coard". The Gleaner. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  3. ^ Coard, Bernard (5 February 2005), "Why I wrote the 'ESN book'", The Guardian.
  4. ^ Weale, Sally (13 May 2021). "Film-maker lauds black parents who toppled 'subnormal' schools". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Subnormal: A British Scandal". Black History Month Magazine. 18 May 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Subnormal: A British Scandal". Rogan Productions. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  7. ^ Nicholson, Rebecca (20 May 2021). "Review | Subnormal: A British Scandal review – the racist nightmare that scarred black children for life". The Guardian.
  8. ^ John-Baptiste, Ashley (20 May 2021). "The black children wrongly sent to 'special' schools in the 1970s". BBC News. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  9. ^ Arboine, Niellah (18 May 2021). "Steve McQueen's New Doc Champions The People Who Shut Down ESN Schools". Bustle. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  10. ^ Coard, Bernard (19 May 2021). "This is what connects Stephen Lawrence, George Floyd, and Grenfell". The Big Issue. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  11. ^ "Glossary". Commonwealth Oral History Project.
  12. ^ Zunes, Stephen (October 2003), "The US Invasion of Grenada", Global Policy Forum.
  13. ^ "Grenada-Willing Prisoners", Associated Press (, 11 September 2004.
  14. ^ "Coard & Ors v. The Attorney General (Grenada) [2007] UKPC 7 (7 February 2007)". The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Decisions.
  15. ^ "Grenada's last 1983 rebels freed". BBC Online. 5 September 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  16. ^ Pantin, Raoul (5 February 2011). "Exclusive interview with Bernard Coard". Trinidad Express. Archived from the original on 27 October 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Minister of Finance of Grenada
1979 - 1983
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Grenada
14–19 October 1983
Succeeded by