Donald Trump vowed to fix the "many wrongs" facing African-Americans as he made a visit to a predominantly black church in Detroit.
The Republican presidential candidate called for a "civil rights agenda for our time" as he addressed the congregation at the Great Faith Ministries International.
The tycoon swayed to songs of worship, read scripture, and donned a Jewish prayer shawl during the visit.
"I am here to listen to you," he said. "I'm here today to learn."
Although there are still two months until the election, early voting begins next week in North Carolina, and it will be a major test of whether his recent outreach to non-white groups is translating into support.
Mr Trump has stepped up his attempts to appeal to minority voters in recent weeks as he tries to expand his appeal beyond his Republican base.
The visit was his first to a black church - a rare appearance in front of a largely-minority audience for the candidate who typically attracts overwhelmingly white crowds.
Mr Trump was introduced by Bishop Wayne T Jackson, who warned that he was in for something different.
"This is the first African-American church he's been in, y'all! Now it's a little different from a Presbyterian church," he said.
While protesters were a vocal presence outside, Mr Trump made a pitch inside for support from an electorate strongly aligned with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"Our nation is too divided," said Mr Trump, who is known for making contentious remarks.
"We talk past each other, not to each other. And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on."
Striking a rare unifying tone, he said: "I'm here today to learn so that we can together remedy injustice in any form."
Mr Trump also praised the black church as "the conscience of our country" and said the nation needs "a civil rights agenda for our time" that includes the right to a quality education, safe neighbourhoods and good jobs.
"I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that must still be made right," he said.
Mr Trump's efforts so far to attract greater support from minority groups have largely fallen flat. Polls show Mrs Clinton with overwhelmingly more support from blacks and Hispanics.
African-American community leaders, in particular, have railed against Mr Trump's dire depictions of minority life and dismissed his message as intended more to reassure white voters that he is not racist than to help communities of colour.
Outside the church, several separate protests swelled into a throng of about 400 people denouncing Mr Trump. At one point, the protesters tried to push through a barrier to the car park but were stopped by church security and police.
Rev Lawrence Glass said Mr Trump represents the "politics of fear and hate" and "minorities of all kinds have much to lose taking a chance on someone like" him.
But inside, churchgoers said they thought it was important to hear directly from the Republican nominee as they consider their options.
"I'm here to hear what he has to say," said Milton Lewis, 46, who works as a minister at another church.
Detroit is about 80% black, and many are struggling. Nearly 40% of residents are impoverished, compared with about 15% of Americans overall.