ATLANTA — Making her first high-profile foray into the Southern black church, California Sen. Kamala Harris told a Georgia congregation founded by former freed slaves that the United States remains wracked by racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination that flout the nation’s core values.

But the rising Democratic Party star, a 52-year-old first-term senator, added that Americans aren’t as split as “forces of hate and division” suggest. “I believe it is time we replace the divide-and-conquer,” she said from the pulpit of First Congregational Church in downtown Atlanta, adding that national unity comes from citizens’ recognizing their share priorities while still honoring diversity.

Harris’ future prospects dominated her appearance as the invited keynote for the 150th anniversary of First Congregational Church’s founding.

Introducing Harris, church member and personal friend of the senator Eugene Duffy praised her for her aggressive questioning of “that white supremacist Jeff Sessions,” the nation’s attorney general. He said Harris “pulled (Sessions’) sheet off” at hearings on Capitol Hill.

Harris smiled but did not clap as did many congregants when Duffy blasted Sessions.

From the pulpit, Harris criticized “the attorney general,” without naming Sessions, for renewing the push for harsher sentences in nonviolent drug crimes and for rolling back some of policing overhauls from the Obama administration.

A former California attorney general who opposes the death penalty, Harris says she advocates a criminal justice system that honors “the concept of redemption.”

Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, does not publicly embrace speculation about her 2020 intentions. But she has met in recent months with key Democratic donors and hired aides who worked for 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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