Brazilian president: Our countries share fight against 'blemish of slavery'

Obama, Rousseff hold joint press conference
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(CNN)The United States and Brazil will be able to overcome future challenges related to race because of progress the two countries have made dealing with their past, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday.

Rousseff, who was in town to meet and have a White House press conference with President Barack Obama, addressed the striking parts of history the two countries share: Slavery.
"I think Brazil and the U.S. have a great deal in common," Rousseff said. "We are two countries that have a hallmark in our history, something that we actually had to fight to overcome. I'm talking about the blemish of slavery."
The legacy of slavery has recently returned to the political and cultural forefront, following Southern states that are debating the prominence of the Confederate Flag, a symbol many see as celebrating the enslavement of blacks.
    U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 30, 2015.
    Brazil received the largest number of African slaves of any country during the Transatlantic slave trade -- more than 4.9 million.
    Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888, more than two decades after it was ended in the United States.
    Today there are more than 14.5 million Afro-Brazilians in the country - making up about 7.6 percent of Brazil's population.
    "We have large black populations in our two countries. We are countries marked by a very significant ethnic and multicultural variety in our population makeup," Rousseff said. "And that is a major asset, the wonderful heritage in our population. The same is true for the U.S."
    In the same press conference, Obama mentioned the ongoing challenges that slavery has caused the U.S. He praised South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the state capitol grounds last week. For many Americans, removing the flag will suggest another step forward of acknowledging the harm of slavery in America.
    "As I said on Friday, I think it doesn't solve all our problems," Obama said. "But what it does is signify a sense of empathy and recognition that I think is always the start of progress."