As Black History Month comes to an end reflecting on how most African-Americans arrived to the United States is apart of contextualizing the Black experience. The involuntary migration of Africans to the Americas is what hip-hop artist Akon rapped about in the song ‘Senegal.’ “So what you know about the Goree Islands? Where all the slaves were shipped from.” The 69 acres island was, initially used as a cemetery in the mid 15th century by the Portuguese. Tour Guide Gaoussou Ouattara said it was a ‘pit-stop’ for European colonists during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. “They prefer to bring them to this island like a cemetery” he explained.
Situated off the coast West Africa, Ouattara said the location was prime for European and American ships to stop at Goree with their slaves chained to boats. “They (colonists) just came here to have food and fresh water before leaving here.”
28 houses were built to hold African slaves during their brief stay on the island, showering just 3 times a week. “After the Portuguese [came] the Dutch stayed here, and after the Dutch, the French and then the British.”
Houses on Goree Island held slaves from Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Angola, Senegal and Mozambique, according to Ouattara. “Here was the last place where they stayed for a few months or a few weeks before leaving Africa definitely,” he shared. Men, women, and infants were separated, shackled, and sat nearly naked soiled in their own bodily fluids before being packed back onto ships setting sail across the Atlantic-with the intent to be sold as chattel. Black slaves went to Lisbon, Cadix, Nantes, Amsterdam and Liverpool. Ouattara adds that the first slaves from the tiny Senegalese island arrived in Virginia in 1619.
The French colonized Senegal in 1677 and stopped the slave trade in Goree on April 27 1848.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deemed Goree Island a historic site in 1944 claiming ‘from the 15th to the 19th century, it was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast.’ The ocher colored ‘House of Slaves’ according to Ouattara, is one of the oldest buildings on the island. While some dispute the importance of Goree Island in the slave trade, Ouattara feels the numbers are prove its relevance. “They say slavery and its various calamities has made more than 120 million victims in Black Africa and about 12 to 15 million only pass through Goree. The story is the stories of events in the past,” he said. Goree Island was the first stop for Former President Barack Obama’s Africa tour in 2013.
I traveled to Goree Island, which is now a small, car-less tourist attraction where about 1,800 Senegalese residents reside. Here's a few pics I gathered along the way. These images depict "The Door of No Return," and slaves dungeons and "The House of Slaves."