Senegal slave island, moved by George Floyd’s death, renames Europe Square

DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegal’s Goree Island, which for centuries served as a way station in the Transatlantic slave trade, has changed the name of its Europe Square in response to the death of George Floyd in the United States and the global movement it inspired.A general view of Goree Island is seen off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

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 1998 in recognition of European funding for renovations at the World Heritage Site.

But some residents thought the name was nevertheless inappropriate.

“The name Europe Square was, in a way, a symbol of friendship between peoples,” said 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 Americas. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1978.

These days, 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, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II have all visited.

Alassane Niang, a chef from Goree, said the move – which comes as governments around the world consider changing street names and bringing down public monuments associated with racism – was long overdue.

“For me, it could even be Africans Square. That would be better because the majority who live here are Black,” he said. “The Senegalese – Africans – deserve the square.”

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