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Bush Calls Slavery 'One of Greatest Crimes in History' - 2003-07-08

U.S. President George W. Bush is in Senegal at the start of a five-country tour of Africa. The president visited a former clearinghouse for African slaves, where he spoke of the evils of slavery and the contributions of African-Americans.

President Bush stepped into the darkness of Goree Island's slave house, where more than a million Africans passed through what has come to be known as the point of no return.

After touring holding cells where men, women and children were sorted for sale in Europe and America, Mr. Bush lamented what he called "one of the greatest crimes in history."

"For hundreds of years on this island, peoples of different continents met in fear and cruelty," the president said. "Today we gather in respect and friendship, mindful of past wrongs and dedicated to the advance of human liberty."

Mr. Bush was joined on the island in Dakar's harbor by his host, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who spoke of the accomplishments that Senegalese immigrants have made in the United States.

Mr. Bush praised the men and women, black and white, who campaigned for the end of slavery, instilling what he called "a moral vision" that caused Americans to examine their hearts, change their constitution and teach their children the dignity and equality of every race.

"By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America," he said. "The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free."

Mr. Bush says many of the troubling issues of U.S. race relations today are rooted in the bigotry of slavery, but he says the ultimate goal remains liberty and justice for all.

The president says Africa has overcome the arrogance of colonialism and overturned the cruelties of apartheid. Now he says Africans are making clear that dictatorship is not the future of any nation.

Mr. Bush says Africans and Americans share the values of liberty and know that freedom is not the possession of any single nation. He says America is led into the world by the conviction that justice should reach wherever the sun passes.

"With the power and resources given to us, the United States seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there is suffering, and liberty where there is tyranny," he said.

Mr. Bush says the United States will ensure that Africa is a full partner in world trade and prosperity while helping to confront the humanitarian challenges of hunger and AIDS.