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Gorée Island and the House of Slaves

January 14, 2019

BUS/EDU/MLA 675T: Senegal from Colonisation to Globalisation


Jan. 14, 2019

Gorée IslandGorée Island Credit: Asmau Diallo ’21Today we went to Gorée Island. The island is about 3km off the coast of Senegal. As we approached the island, it was really beautiful and I felt a really strong sense of excitement and wonder. The water was very clear and the bright colors from the island buildings reminded me of Cuba. There was such amazing street art everywhere, and we met an artist who makes beautifully colored works using only sands from different parts of Africa!

Afterward, we went to the main attraction of the island, the House of Slaves. The most chilling part about touring was seeing the place where millions of Africans were kept as slaves and transported. They were left looking at the Door of No Return, where they were finally put on a boat to never see their families or their native land again. A quiet remembrance loomed over the place as students toured, seeing the minuscule rooms where men, women, and children were kept.

Upon returning to the hotel, we watched a documentary about the DeWolf family, a family that was the largest slave trading family in America, and a family that still reaps those benefits today. It was interesting to see how, while slavery ended many years ago, there are still several residual effects that many people deny and choose not to talk about. The class had a very important and productive discussion after the documentary about how non-people of color can help their minority counterparts. It was so inspiring to see such a diverse community come together and have a productive conversation.
— Asmau Diallo ’21

This day was the most challenging but enlightening experience I have ever encountered. Today, we had the opportunity to visit Gorée Island. It is off the coast of Dakar, in Senegal, and it is known for its role in the 15-19th century Atlantic Slave Trade. We took a 20-minute ferry to the island. Once on the island, a tour guide showed us around, and we went to a variety of destinations during the tour where we could shop around as well. We went to a place where an artist showed us his artwork and how he did his process. It was something that I have never seen before. Every tool and material that was used by the artist was all made in his home of Senegal, so the artwork was very authentic and organic. I bought five pieces for myself and my family to have.

Jawaune Johnson ’19 poses with a local Senegalese artistJawaune Johnson ’19 poses with a local Senegalese artist Credit: Jawaune Johnson ’19Local Senegalese artist checks out Jawaune's workLocal Senegalese artist checks out Jawaune's work Credit: Jawaune Johnson ’19I also encountered another artist from from the island who was showcasing his work; we had a brief but nice conversation. He was such a kind and happy soul that I really gravitated toward him at first glance. From far away, I was signaling to ask if I could take a picture. He said yes, but he insisted that I come closer to get a better look at his artwork.

“This is your home, so you are always welcome to take pictures, and look around wherever you like,” he told me.

My heart was warmed by this encounter. I told him that his art was really cool, and how his dreadlocks were on point, hoping that I could get my dreadlocks as long as his one day. We had a whole conversation about hair and then I asked if he could look at my art as well. He loved the figurines. He loved one piece specifically, and I decided that I was going to gift him with that same piece he loved. I wrote my name and email down, and we took one last picture and said see you later. I have a feeling that I will see him again someday. :)

After our tour, we had lunch inside an open tent. I had Greek chicken with french fries and vegetables.

Right after lunch, we went to an old slave trade house — something that all people should look at and encounter while in Senegal. This slave trade house is where enslaved Africans were stored like cargo until they were ready to be transported to the place where they were sold, never to be seen again. They call this place “the point of no return.” We went around the house, and during the tour, I just felt an overwhelming emotion take over my body as I was looking around the tight, crowded spaces where enslaved Africans were stored. Our first encounter was a door that opened to only show the empty ocean, or “the point of no return.” It was a riveting and emotional experience. I have never felt more connected to my ancestors. It was like the weight of the past that the United States so easily wants to forget was on my shoulders, and this was a part of my history as an African American male. This place gave each and every one of us a different experience and I am glad that I was able to encounter that with my classmates.

Afterward, Roger Moreano showed us a documentary about white people who were reaching back in time to become more in tune with how their history was rooted in the slave trade, and the benefits white families received from slavery as slave masters. Roger led a discussion with our class. The vulnerability of each and every person in that room was both moving and wonderful to experience. I love to have open dialogue about my people’s history and how it pertains to us today. Not only did we tie into the problems occurring today, but we talked about how to become better people within our communities. “We cannot be complete human beings until we help someone else become a complete human being,” Roger said as we ended our conversation.
— Jawaune Johnson ’19

Paintings at The House of Slaves on Gorée IslandPaintings at The House of Slaves on Gorée Island Credit: Asmau Diallo ’21Today we got to visit Gorée Island on the coast of Senegal. If you don’t know much about it, then I encourage you to research the history of the island. You’ll find that Gorée Island is actually home to a historical landmark and one of the major locations where slaves were shipped from Africa to several western locations across the Atlantic Ocean.

The energy in the House of Slaves was indescribable. It’s a feeling you won’t know until you’re actually standing in the same exact place that thousands, perhaps millions, of slaves once stood. We explored many beautiful aspects of the island, and it was truly breathtaking!

In addition to visiting the island, we were also given the opportunity to eat at a local restaurant. Today I tried chicken with peanut sauce. While the actual name escapes me at the moment, I will admit the dish was delicious. To get an idea of what it may taste like, one might imagine grilled chicken with melted peanut butter. However, a fun fact about Senegal is that peanuts happen to be one of their main crops! I haven’t eaten many peanuts myself, but I have seen many vendors selling unshelled peanuts, and restaurants even serve peanuts as an appetizer. If you plan on traveling to Senegal but have a severe allergy to peanuts, just make sure that you do your research on what dishes consist of peanuts or peanut butter. You’ll be delighted to know that not every dish has peanuts, but safety first!

The “point of no return” at the House of SlavesThe “point of no return” at the House of Slaves Credit: Asmau Diallo ’21We wrapped up the evening by watching a documentary called “Tracing the Trade.” The documentary is about a family, by the name of DeWolf, who set out to discover the truth about their roots and ties to the transatlantic slave trade. Turns out that this family is in for a major surprise when they discover that they are descendants of one of the largest slave owners to have ever existed! Watching this documentary erupted different types of emotions within myself and my peers. After a long day of exploring Gorée Island, debriefing about what we had seen while we were there, and finally watching this documentary, it’s safe to say we were all emotional. The documentary is very beneficial and was indeed worth watching. I am so happy that this trip is packed with various forms of learning and educational experiences!
— Alayna Arrington ’19

About the Senegal Study Tour

The Travel Dates

Jan. 9-30, 2019

The Instructors

Education Prof. Jacqueline Easley
Education Prof. Michele Hancock
Management and Marketing Prof. Jennifer Madden
Modern Language Prof. Isabel Rivero- Vilá

An Intro

Senegal is one of the most developed nations in West Africa, making seaside Dakar a prime spot to explore Senegalese culture, rich history, language, educational systems, religion, and business/commerce. French is the official language; Wolof (a sub-Saharan language) is the predominant one. Students on this study tour will learn basic French, teach English in schools, and assist in the development of conversational English language skills. They will also study the history of interactions between Europeans and Africans in the slave trade and colonialism; use understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that foster support for families and children; and work to articulate the interconnectedness of cultural, educational, and business systems.

The Blog Writers

  • Asmau Diallo ’21
  • Briana Parks ’21
  • Alayna Arrington ’19
  • Jawaune Johnson ’19


Asmau Diallo ’21, Alayna Arrington ’19, and Jawaune Johnson ’19