The colorful island of Gorée is located about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) from the west coast of Dakar, the bustling capital of Sénégal. It's approximately 45 acres (18.2 hectares) in size, home to roughly 1000 inhabitants, and can be reached many times daily by a 20 minute ferry ride. Gorée exudes a charmed and relaxed atmosphere typical of many tropical islands, while possessing many of the amenities of Dakar, such as restaurants and museums, lively arts, sports, dance, and music, as well as a cyber café (see photos of the island at images/art).
Gorée is best known as a significant port-of-call during the Atlantic slave trade. In the mid-1400s, the Portuguese set up trade on the island, followed by the Dutch, and then the French. As part of this trade, millions of captive West Africans were reportedly brought to Gorée from the mainland and forcibly transported to the Americas for labor, mainly on plantations. In recent years, however, a debate has developed concerning (1) the role of slaves on the island, and (2) the number of slaves thought to have passed through Gorée en route to the New World. Determining the extent and context of this trade is one of the primary research objectives of archaeologists Ibrahima Thiaw (see Archaeology) and Raina Croff (Contributing Research). An archaeological field school designed to help address these questions is open to students from around the world. It is directed by Dr Thiaw, with assistance from Dr Susan McIntosh and other visiting scholars (see Fieldschool).