Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) vowed Wednesday that a new Democratic administration would be dedicated to "racial, educational and economic equality" after touring the National Civil Rights Museum (search).

Edwards moved slowly through the exhibits, looking at photos of young black men and women being sprayed with firehoses and assaulted at lunch counters. After a while, Edwards' handlers had to rush him through the museum to make a rally on Memphis' historic Beale Street (search).

"It brings back a lot of memories -- not good ones," said Edwards, who was born in South Carolina and grew up in North Carolina.

Edwards told the several thousand people showed up for the rally that "those of us from the South have a special responsibility, and we feel the weight of that responsibility."

"We saw what we saw growing up," he said. "We saw men and women bleed and sweat and toil in the march for equality and justice and civil rights in America, and the truth is -- we still have work to do."

The visit to the civil rights museum, built on the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, offered a backdrop for the Democrat's longtime claim to be champions of civil rights and economic equality.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is expected to have a tough time winning in the South, a stronghold for President Bush in the 2000 election. Edwards, a North Carolina senator, was added to the ticket in part to counter that weakness.

Edwards stopped in Memphis after earlier visits to Arkansas and Louisiana. He will then north and meet Kerry in St. Louis on Thursday.