Senegal’s Goree Island, which for centuries served as a significant way station in the Transatlantic slave trade, has changed the name of its Europe Square in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd in the United States and the global protests it inspired.
It will now be known as Freedom and Human Dignity Square, the municipal council decided.
The palm tree-lined Europe Square, in the shadow of an old French fort at the island’s northern tip, was given its name in late 1998 in recognition of European funding for renovations at the World Heritage Site.
But some residents thought the name was inappropriate, even after the UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site in 1978.
“The name Europe Square was, in a way, a symbol of friendship between peoples,” explained Doudou Dia, president of the island’s tourism commission.
“But we also said to ourselves...that in another sense it is celebrating the persecutor,” he said. “What happened to George Floyd was the final straw.”
Lying off the Senegalese capital Dakar, Goree was a transit point over several centuries for enslaved Africans being shipped to the “new continent”, the Americas.
Currently, it is a popular tourist attraction with its cobblestoned streets and historic houses. It is known primarily for its House of Slaves, which several U.S. presidents and important figures like Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, have all visited.
Alassane Niang, a chef from Goree, claimed that the move - which comes as governments around the world consider changing street names and bringing down public monuments associated with racism and the worldwide protests after the murder of Floyd - was long overdue.
“For me, it could even be Africans Square. That would be better because the majority who live here are Black,” he pointed out. “The Senegalese - Africans - deserve the square.”