Goree Island

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Goree Island

Goree is a small island 900 m in lengoree slave museumgth and 300 m wide sheltered by the Cap Vert Peninsula .Now part of the city of Dakar. It served for many centuries as one of the principal slave factories in the triangular trade between Africa, Europe and the Americas. Being almost devoid of drinking water, the island was not settled prior to the arrival of Europeans. The Portuguese were the first to establish a presence on Goree (c.1450), building a small stone chapel there and using it as a cemetery.

Goree is best known as the location of the House of Slaves (French: Maison des exclaves), built c 1780- 1784, one of the houses of slaves that were used as a holding and transfer point for human cargo during the slave trade. The House of Slaves is one of the oldest houses on the island. It is now a popular tourist destination. Well known in the western world, Goree was actually just one of the many places from where slave trade was conducted.

The island of Goree was one of the first places in Africa to be settled by Europeans, the Portuguese setting foot on the island in 1444. Later it was captured by the United Netherlands in 1588 who named it after Goree Islandthe Dutch language Goree. The British took over in 1664 then eventually the French took control in 1677. The island remained continuously French until 1960 when Senegal was granted independence, with only brief periods of English occupation during the various wars fought by France and England between 1677 and 1815.

Goree was mainly a trading post, administratively attached to Saint Louis, capital of the Colony of Senegal. Apart from slaves, beeswax, hides and grain were also traded. The population of the island (not counting slaves in transit) fluctuated according to circumstances, from a few hundred free Africans and Creoles to about 1,500. There would have been few European residents at any one time. In the 18th and 19th century Goree was home to a Franco-African Creole, or Metis , community of merchants with links to similar communities in Saint Louis and south to the Gambia and beyond . Mulatoe women, called “signares” from the Portuguese “senhora”, were especially important to the city’s business life.

Goree Island The signares owned ships and property and commanded male clerks. They were also famous for cultivating fashion and entertainment .In March 1815, during his political comeback known as the Hundred Days, Napoleon definitely abolished slave trade in order to ingratiate himself with England which had abolished it in 1807, and this time the abolition was not reversed. Thus, Goree officially stopped to be a slave trading point in 1815.

In reality, however, the abolition of slave trade was not effectively enforced by the French government, and a clandestine slave trade remained active until 1848; when the newly founded Second Republic finally abolished slavery for good in all the territories under French sovereignty.

As the trade in slaves declined, Goree converted to legitimate commerce. The tiny city and port were however ill situated for the shipment of industrial quantities of peanuts which began arriving in bulk from the continent. Consequently, its merchants established a presence directly on the mainland, first in Rufisque (1840) and then in Dakar (1857) and many of the established families started to leave the island.

Now Goree is connected to the mainland by regular 30 minute ferry service with pedestrians only. There are no car on the island .It is Senegal’s premier tourist site and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. It now serves as a memorial to the slave trade. The built-up urban core of the island is entirely geared to tourism and many of the historic commercial and residential buildings have been turned into restaurants and hotels.

The island is now considered a memorial to the black Diaspora; a former slave house there is now a museum .The island is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the African slave trade, Goree Island was a slave-holding warehouse, a veritable center for the trade in African men, women and children and millions of West Africans were taken away against their will. These Africans were brought to Goree Island, sold into slavery, and held in the holding warehouse on the island until they were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.

They were sailed to South America, the Caribbean and North America to create a new world. It was precisely from this gate of no return that the Slave House had the pleasure of receiving Pope John Paul II in February 1992. Goree IslandIt was also from this gate that the Pope asked Africa for forgiveness for the slave trade.