The president said as he visited Goree Island, a former way station for slaves en route to the Americas, ”At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold.”
“One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history,” he added.
President Bush also praised African Americans, some who arrived in the United States as slaves, for their contributions to American life.
“The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free,” he said.
Despite the many accomplishments of African Americans, Mr. Bush added that the issue of race and struggle against racism continues to this day.
“The racial bigotry led by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times,” he said.
President Bush said further that those who participated in the slave trade should not be excused for simply living the values of a different era because many of their contemporaries took abolitionist stands.
“Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions,” he said. “Some have said we should not judge their failures by the standards of a later time, yet in every time there were men and women who clearly saw this sin and called it by name.”
The president’s visit to Senegal marked the beginning of a five-nation tour of Africa. He and top administration officials are expected to discuss famine-relief, peacekeeping efforts, the war on terrorism, and trade with national leaders on the continent.
The president has also said the United States will seek to stabilize war-torn Liberia. A U.S. team arrived in the West African nation Monday to assess the need for a possible military intervention in the country plagued by internal and external conflicts.
“We’re in the process of determining what is necessary to maintain the cease-fire and to allow for a peaceful transfer of power,” the president said Tuesday.
Mr. Bush has said Liberia’s president, Charles Taylor, must step down if the widespread violence is to come to an end. Taylor faces an indictment for human rights violations during the war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
President Bush has said his administration is committed to helping Liberia, a nation formed in 1847 by freed American slaves, attain peace.