They hugged, chanted "Yes, we did!" and sang in celebration.
With tears in her eyes, one student at the historically black college said she never imagined she would be celebrating her 19th birthday the night a black man was elected president.
The largely Democratic crowd, many wearing Obama T-shirts and holding signs, spent the night cheering each time a state was called for Obama.
Elsewhere in D.C., motorists honked their car horns and residents set off fireworks. Shouts of "Obama!" also rang out into the night. Crowds spilled onto U Street and overflowed outside the White House.
About 2,000 people gathered outside the White House to cheer and celebrate.
Jubilation stretched into the early morning Wednesday as the large crowd paraded on Pennsylvania Avenue with drums, balloons and a life-size cutout of Obama.
By 4 a.m., a few young revelers lingered among the reviewing stands being built for January's presidential inauguration.
Nadirah Moreland says she wanted to see where the Obama family will be living.
Some chanted "Bush is gone!"
Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers stood guard nearby, though no arrests were reported.
"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."
Thousands filled the streets of Virginia's capital city to mark a historic day in America.
Political news from the U.S. Capitol, White House and around Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
The election of Obama sparked a celebration that continued into Wednesday as a section of Richmond's Fan District was closed for celebrants who numbered more than 2,000.
Many chanted "Yes we can" and "No more Bush."
As the celebration neared an end, hundreds sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
There were similar scenes across the state.
In Virginia Beach, hundreds of people at a hotel hugged, cheered and wept at news of Obama's election as president.