President Bush says America must never forget the suffering of those who came to the nation's shores as slaves, or the bravery of those who fought for full equality.
At a ceremony attended by prominent African-Americans in politics, science, business and the arts, the president said all American children need to be taught about the indignity of slavery, and the courage and dignity shown by the leaders of the civil rights movement.
"And we all need to learn more about the men and women whose determination and persistent eloquence forced Americans of all races to examine our hearts, revise our Constitution and laws and make America into the nation it was always supposed to be," Mr. Bush said.
But the president acknowledged much remains to be done to ensure equal opportunity for all. He drew loud sustained applause when he repeated a brief passage from his inaugural address: we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
"We have made progress and our work is not yet done," he said. "But we can proceed with faith in our country and confidence in our cause."
Mr. Bush also used the occasion to reaffirm his support for efforts to build a national museum of African-American history in Washington. A private fundraising drive has just begun, and the president said he will make one of the first contributions.