Jubilation stretched into the early morning today in Washington, where a large crowd paraded on Pennsylvania Avenue with drums, balloons and a life-size cutout of Obama.
"I heard that he won and I instinctively came here," said Hollis Gentry, 45, who lives about six blocks away. "I came down here to make a prayer ... that we'll be able to change the nation and the world."
In New York City's Harlem neighborhood, Thomasina Wright started today with a smile. "I'm way happy," she said. "It means that I can tell my seven grandchildren that they have a chance to be president."
"I have hope for several reasons. I hope for everybody including my nephews. They can have a higher rank in America," souvenir vendor and Senegalese immigrant Ibrahim Sisse said today as he was laying out his wares on a Harlem street. "I hope for America, changing."
Earlier, in Detroit, carloads of celebrants rolled past the bronze sculpture of prizefighter Joe Louis' fist, blaring their horns and chanting "Obama!" out of open windows.
"The history, the struggle, it's been a long time," said Cheryl Stephenson, 48. "People are hurting, not just black people. I think we're ready to take a chance.
"We went from 'Yes, we can' to 'Yes, we did.'"
Sarah Geels wept big, slow tears at an Obama victory celebration in St. Louis.
"It's overwhelming," said Geels, 32, a community college librarian. "I just can't believe it. It's too good to be true. There soon will be a drastic improvement in this country."
In Philadelphia, thousands of blacks and whites converged at City Hall shortly after Obama was declared the winner. Under light rain, they danced to the music blaring from car radios. Drivers stopped in the middle of the street, opened their car doors and broadcast Obama's acceptance speech.
"Barack is in the house!" shouted Pamela Williams, 46. "This is very important to me. Change is about to happen."
At Sadiki's restaurant in Philadelphia, the celebration poured out onto the sidewalk.
"Our parents left this planet thinking that we would never, ever see this day, when an African-American could be elected by all the people to the highest seat in the land," said Bernard Smalley Sr. His wife, Jacquelyn, wept.
The celebrations were both large big and small, but the sentiment was the same -- pure joy over how far the country has come. People honked horns, high-fived each other and embraced.
"I was born in the civil rights time. To see this happening is unbelievable. We've got the first black president. A black president!" said Mike Louis, a 53-year-old black man who got teary-eyed as he watched the election results on a giant video board in Cincinnati's Fountain Square. "It's not cured now, but this is a step to curing this country of racism. This is a big, giant step toward getting this country together."
Elsewhere, some Americans were wary, but hopeful. In Iowa, Sam Gipple, 60, said he voted for John McCain because he worries Obama lacks the experience he needs to be an effective leader.
"I'd give him a chance, and hope he keeps some of the good promises he made," said Gipple, the transportation director for Iowa County.