Goree Island

Picturesque Goree Island or as is commonly known in Senegal Île de Gorée

The island of Gorée is reported to be one of the first places in Africa to be settled by Europeans, with the Portuguese setting foot on the island in 1444. The Dutch are said to have bought the island from a local chief for a trifling amount and took control over the island in 1588. Gorée became a way station for Dutch ships plying the route between their forts on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the caribbean West Indies. The Dutch named the island after the Dutch island of Goerée. or according to some—for its sheltered harbor, “Goode Reede” (good harbor). Gorée changed hands many times. The British took it from the Dutch; the Dutch then recaptured it, but had to give it up again to the French during French maritime expansion under Colbert. In 1802, by the terms of the Amiens peace agreement, the island became French and remained so until Senegalese independence in 1960.

Photo by Carostan

Harbour in Goree Island
Photo by Giel F

Gorée was the principal entry point off the coast of Africa for slavers and merchantmen flying the French flag. After the abolition of the slave trade in France in 1848, Gorée was an outpost for policing the seas. As its role in trade declined, it became a stepping off point for French colonization of the interior of West Africa. Goree Island is one of the major tourist attraction site in Senegal because of its history as a major slave-trading center.

Slavery depiction, Maison des Esclaves
Photo by Brian McMorrow

House of Slaves, Île de Gorée. The House of Slave was designed to detain slaves awaiting to be sold and for shipment.
Photos by Brian McMorrow

Slave House (Maison des Esclaves)

Photos by Robin Elaine

“The owner’s residential quarters were on the upper floor. The lower floor was reserved for the slaves who were weighed, fed and held before departing on the transatlantic journey. The Slave House with its famous “Door of No Return” has been preserved in its original state.”
Source: Goree Island

Sketch depicting slaves aboard a ship
Photos by Robin Elaine

Leg irons for slaves
Photos by Robin Elaine

Slave Holding cell
Door of No Return
The slaves went out through this door never to return

Photos by Brian McMorrow


Slavery Freedom Monument in Goree Island
A monument symbolizing the end of the slave trade
Photo by Carostan

Fort d’Estreés now houses the Historical Museum

“The shipping of slaves from Goree lasted from 1536 when the Portuguese launched the slave trade to the time the French halted it 312 years later. …The surrounding waters are so deep that any attempt at escaping would mean sure drowning. With a five kg metal ball permanently attached to their feet or necks, a captured African would know what jumping into the deep sea would bring.

The island, with some 1,300 inhabitants is said to be so tranquil that there are no cars, no crime, and those who visit Goree are said to behave more like pilgrims visiting a holy shrine than as tourists.

Most visitors don’t even spend the night on Goree. There is only one hotel.

During his visit to Goree in 1981, the former French prime minister, Michel Rocard, said, “It is not easy for a white man, in all honesty, to visit this Slave House without feeling ill-at-ease”.

The Pope also visited Goree in 1992 and asked for forgiveness because historians say that a lot of Catholic missionaries were involved in the slave trade.

The slave house at Goree has also been visited by South African President Nelson Mandela. He toured the island three years before his election, and insisted on crawling into a cramped holding cell.”

Bill Clinton visited the island in 1998

Text source: Goree: The Slave Island BBC

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush tour the Slave House on Goree Island, Senegal, with President Abdoulaye Wade and Viviane Wade of Senegal, Secretary of State Colin Powell, far left, and National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice Tuesday, July 8, 2003. White House photo by Paul Morse

“For hundreds of years on this island peoples of different continents met in fear and cruelty. Today we gather in respect and friendship, mindful of past wrongs and dedicated to the advance of human liberty,”

Bush speaking at Goree Island 8th july 2003


In 1978 Goree Island was designated a UNESCO world heritage site.

Life in Goree today is pleasant however the buildings in island are a constant reminder of its dark history

TEXT SOURCES AND FURTHER READINGS
UNESCO Goree Island Senegal