WASHINGTON (AFP) — Scenes of joy erupted in the US capital and across the country as raucous crowds poured onto the streets celebrating Barack Obama's triumph in the US election, honking horns, dancing and singing.
A delirious, diverse crowd of about 2,000 gathered around the White House, with strangers greeting each other with high-fives and chanting Obama's name in a carnival atmosphere resembling the end of a sporting match.
"La,la,la, La,la,la -- Hey,hey,hey -- goodbye" a crowd sung in several languages outside the White House, where President George W. Bush will officially hand over power to Obama on January 20.
Among the mostly youthful throng was Ted Howard, a 64-year-old African-American who was overcome with emotion, hugging fellow revelers on the sidewalk.
"I never thought I'd see a day like this," said Howard, who cast his first vote for president for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and witnessed the funeral procession of the US leader after he was slain in 1963.
"It's more spiritual than political," he said. "I am extremely emotional. Everybody's hugging each other. There's love in the air."
Nearby, an improvised bongo concert echoed across Pennsylvania Avenue, where one young man held up a sign that seemed to capture the giddy mood: "Funk the government!"
Several blocks north of the White House, thousands flooded U street, chosen in advance for celebrations given its symbolic location as a center of race riots that swept the city in 1968.
A percussion band thumped away as ecstatic crowds danced in a light rain while others climbed on traffic light poles and bus shelters.
"It's the most important moment we have ever lived through," Sarah Reed, 21, a student at George Washington University, told AFP.
"We finally did it. This is the first time I have ever felt proud to be an American," said Reed, who had the name Obama daubed on her forehead.
In Times Square in New York, piercing howls of joy, dancing, and chants of "Obama! Obama!" broke out as gigantic television screens relayed the dramatic victory.
Police struggled to keep control as the crowd spilled into the road.
"This is an amazing, historic moment for America. I've seen some really dark times over the last eight years," said Andrew Bernard, a film production designer who came out with his 10-year-old son Lincoln.
"I wanted my son to come and see the shining light."
In Chicago, a massive crowd of 240,000 packed into a downtown park for Obama's election party went wild with joy.
Amid a sea of US flags, camera flashes exploded as far as the eye could see and the mixed crowd of young and old danced, hugged and screamed as the first African-American in history succeeded with his bid for the White House.
Chants of "Yes we can!" and "Obama! Obama!" rang into the air.
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who himself sought the presidency in 1984 and 1988 but failed to win the Democratic nomination, was seen shedding tears of joy.
"Today I am proud to be a black American," cheered Rosemary Morris as she sat with two friends at the foot of a statue on the park's edge.
"This is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day."
Street celebrations also broke out in the black area of Harlem in New York, in Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles on the West coast, and in Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida in the South.
A crowd in Miami watched Obama's victory speech on a big screen, with a group of Hispanic supporters chanting Obama's campaign slogan in Spanish: "Si se puede."
In the Finnigan's Wake bar in the city of Philadelphia, crowds of Obama supporters let out a roar when his victory in their crucial state of Pennsylvania was announced earlier in the evening, prompting chants of "It's all over."
Blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians wept with emotion as Obama appeared on the television screen, ready to pronounce his victory speech.
As giddy chaos broke loose in the bar, three black teenage girls sat in stunned silence as they reflected on the historic night.
"I can't believe it. We did it. We did it," one of the girls said.
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