- Today, a quiet and quaint haunt for tourists with about 1,000
permanent residents, GoreÚ played an important role in the history of
Africa, particularly in the development of the slave trade.
three kilometers from Dakar at its nearest point, the island is make
up of a flat plain that ends in a steep basaltic hill (the Castle),
and is only 900 meters by 300. Possibly sighted by Phoenicians
and others in antiquity, it was probably first discovered by the
Portuguese explorer Dias in 1444.
The island was colonized in 1817. As with Manhattan Island,
the Dutch bought the island from a local chief for a pittance.
GoreÚ became a way station for Dutch ships plying the route between
their forts on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Indies. The Dutch
gave the island its name, most probably for "Goeree" Island
in Holland, or more fancifully - according to some - for its sheltered
harbor, "Goode Reede" (good harbor). GoreÚ 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.
GoreÚ was the principal entry point off the coast of Africa for
slavers and merchantmen flying the French flag. Thousands of
Africans passed through this island fortress on the continent's bulge.
After the abolition of the slave trade in France in 1848, GoreÚ 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.
GoreÚ had the first school and the first printing plant in French
Africa. It was also one of the "four communes" which
in the 19th century were electing deputies tot he French National
Assembly. Like Zanzibar off the East Coast of Africa, GoreÚ is
important in the early history of American relations with
Africa. The United States established a consulate in Senegal in
1885. Many buildings on GoreÚ are currently undergoing
renovations, sponsored by Senegal and many other governments and
The Slave House: Built in 1776 by the Dutch, the slave House
is one of several sites on the island where Africans were brought to
be loaded onto ships bound for the New World. 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. Thousands of tourists visit the house each year.
The Botanical Gardens: Located on the Rue du Port, the
gardens were founded by the French in 1667 and remain open to the
The Church of St. Charles: Located on the Place de l'Eglise,
the church was built with public contributions in 1830 in the style of
provincial churches in western France.
The Castle: Originally built by the Dutch in the 17th
century, the fortress has been razed and reconstructed several
times. In the 18th century it housed the residence of the
Governor of Senegal and in 1940 it was bombarded by a combined British
and Free French naval force.
William Ponty School: From 1913-1937, this building
housed the Ecole Normale William Ponty where many African leaders were
Strickland House: The site of the first American
Consulate established in West Africa. It was the home of
American businessman Peter Strickland who came to Africa in 1878 as a
representative of the Boston trading firm and was named the US Consul
UniversitÚ des Mutants: This university, founded by former
Senegal President Senghor, was established to bring together the best
minds of Africa. It is the site of frequent conferences on
current cultural and economic issues for developing nations.
Hostellerie du Chevalier de Boufflers: This well-known restaurant was named after the first French Governor of Senegal, a
colorful figure who moved to GoreÚ from the Capital of St. Louis
(northwest coast) and is reported to have broken many hearts upon his
return to France in 1788.
Historic Museum: Opened in 1989, the museum has exhibits on
anthropology, West African pre-history and the political and religious
history of Senegal.
The Goree Institute:
Pan African non-profit organization, that engages in community
planning, cultural programming, and the peace academy '(democracy and
governance), on the Island and throughout the Diaspora.