Gorée Island - History and Facts | History Hit

Gorée Island

Goree, Dakar, Senegal

Built by the Dutch in the 1770s, the Maison des Esclaves, or Slave House, on Gorée Island in Senegal is one of the most important monuments to the centuries-long Atlantic slave trade. The infamous Door of No Return marks the final exit point for men, women and children on route to the Americas.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Gorée Island

Gorée Island, a little over a mile offshore from Dakar’s main harbour, is a site that has been fought over by various colonial powers throughout history due to its role as a strategic trading post in the transatlantic slave trade.

Gorée Island history

Some academics have argued that Gorée Island – from the Dutch ‘goede reede’, or ‘good harbour’ – was merely one of hundreds of similar incarceration centres from where relatively few Africans (around 25,000) were transported to the Americas. Others have suggested that upwards of 15 million passed through the Door of No Return on Gorée Island.

Until the abolition of the trade in the French colonies, the Island was a warehouse consisting of over a dozen slave houses.

Gorée Island today

Today, over 200,000 people a year make what can almost be described as an homage to the horrifically brutal slave trade as well as paying respects to unknown and unnamed ancestors who made these fateful journeys.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the tour is the view down the slanting corridor towards the door marked ‘La Porte Du Voyage Sans Retour’ – the trip from which no-one returned. It opened directly onto the sea and once through, you were gone forever.

The House of Slaves on Gorée Island serves as a memorial to the Atlantic slave trade and today in his memory, visitors can witness the harsh conditions in which thousands, if not millions were incarcerated and then shipped out with no hope of ever coming back.

Prime ministers, president, and popes have visited Gorée in recent years, including Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.

Getting to Gorée Island

Gorée is located about 1.2 miles from the main harbor of Dakar. Ferries depart frequently between Dakar and the island and the journey takes around 20 minutes. Most visitors choose to visit the island as a day trip.

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