Moved by George Floyd's death, Senegal slave island renames Europe Square

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Moved by George Floyd's death, Senegal slave island renames Europe Square

Senegal’s Goree Island, which has served as a stopover in the transatlantic slave trade for centuries, has changed the name of its European square in response to George Floyd’s death in the United States and the global movement he inspired.

It will now be known as a place for freedom and human dignity, the city council decided.

Europa-Platz, lined with palm trees and shaded by an old French fortress on the northern tip of the island, was named in 1998 in recognition of European funding for renovations to the World Heritage Site.

However, some residents thought the name was 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 … that it celebrates the pursuer in a different sense,” he said. “What happened to George Floyd was the last straw.”

In front of the Senegalese capital Dakar Goree Island was a transit point for enslaved Africans shipped to America for several centuries. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1978.

Nowadays, it is a popular tourist attraction with its cobblestone streets and historic houses. It is best known for its slave house, which was visited by several US presidents, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II.

Alassane Niang, a Goree cook, said the move – which comes when governments around the world are considering changing street names and toppling public monuments related to racism – is 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 place.”

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