Image: Celebrations in Miami
Wilfredo Lee  /  AP
Thousands celebrated Barack Obama’s victory in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami early on Wednesday.
NBC News and
updated 11/5/2008 4:23:03 AM ET 2008-11-05T09:23:03

Cheering supporters of Barack Obama gathered in streets across the country Tuesday night to celebrate a moment in history many thought might never come.

From the nation's capital to Los Angeles, Americans marveled that they lived to see the day that a black man was elected president.

"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."

In Washington, hundreds of residents spilled into the streets near the White House, carrying balloons, banging on drums and chanting, "Bush is gone!" Along U Street, once known as America's Black Broadway for its many thriving black-owned shops and theaters, men stood on car roofs, waving American flags and Obama posters.

In Harlem, thousands of people, black and white, took to the streets, some dancing, others crying tears of joy, in raucous celebration of the nation’s first African-American president. The roar of a crowd gathered near the legendary Apollo Theater could be heard blocks away.

In Miami, honking horns and fireworks greeted news of Obama’s victory. In Seattle, people poured out of bars, restaurants and houses in the streets near historic Pike Place Market.

In Detroit, carloads of revelers rolled past the bronze sculpture of prizefighter Joe Louis’ fist, blaring their horns and chanting “Obama!” out of open windows.

But the biggest celebration was in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, where several hundred thousand people jammed the streets as the president-elect addressed the nation from Grant Park.

The downtown park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention — was transformed by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.

In the crowd, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had tears streaming down his face as he heard the news. Jackson had to apologize during the campaign for crude remarks he made about Obama that were caught by an open microphone.

Tommy Davis, 20, said he heard Obama won the election as he was out walking with friends in Miami. As he spoke, a group of people sitting in the middle of a nearby street in lawn chairs started banging on pans and cheering.

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“We were rejoicing, saying we got our first black president. We need a president that’s going to make our country better. And Obama can do that for us,” Davis said.

In the Ybor City entertainment district of Tampa, Fla., car horns honked and chants of “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” could be heard when the presidential race was called.

“It’s a landslide! It’s a landslide!” shouted Mark Bias, 51, who was wearing a tall satin Uncle Sam hat and a red, white and blue cape. “This means that American will be back on the right track again.”

Hundreds of Obama supporters watched the election coverage at Starlight Restaurant in Greenville, N.C. Many of them began to pour into the streets with signs waving in the air and tears in their eyes, when Obama was elected.

“This goes far beyond race it brought people of all ethnicities together for a common cause, who was the right person for the job,” said Elijah Jackson, a campaign volunteer.

In the crowd in Chicago was Lisa Boon, 42, who said she burst into tears earlier pondering what an Obama victory would mean.

Boon said her father was the cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black Chicagoan who was abducted and killed in Mississippi in 1955, purportedly for whistling at a white woman.

“I was thinking of all the things done to Emmett and injustices to black people,” Boon said. “This is amazing, simply amazing.”

By Alex Johnson of The Associated Press and the following NBC stations contributed to this report: KING of Seattle; WDIV of Detroit; WITN of Washington, N.C.; WNYC of New York; WRC of Washington; and WTVJ of Miami.


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