Coleman said he was stung by the racially tinged attacks against the president during the campaign. On the eve of the election, Coleman presided over a voter rally at the King Arts Complex in Columbus. "Someone there said, 'I am tired of them disrespecting my president!' The roof almost came down."
Coleman - the first black elected mayor in the Ohio capital - also sensed a new start for the nation with the Obama win. "I think this represents the beginning of a new era in America," he said. "It will be focused on merit, truth-telling and having a moral center. All those were things that Mitt Romney never quite got."
At Obama's inauguration, Elizabeth Alexander recited the poem "Praise Song for the Day," which she had written especially for the occasion. She was keenly aware of the tenseness of the presidential campaign. "In a funny way, this election is even more powerful than the first one," said Alexander, chairman of the Department of African American Studies at Yale University. "It proves again that the country cannot only elect a black man - but re-elect the best person for the job."
Alexander said she thinks that a second Obama term will provide the president with more flexibility. "We will all be wondering: Will the obstruction he faced be different?"
Obama's victory meant a great deal to veterans of the civil rights movement. "I am completely exhilarated," said Margaret Burnham, a law professor at Northeastern University. "This victory gives us an opportunity to fulfill the promises of democracy all across the country. It will be a more inclusive country. We have a president who has made it clear he's on the side of working people."
Saying she remembers the long hot days of working for civil rights in Mississippi, Burnham said the Obama victory was special, as it was in 2008.
"People saw through all the money the Republicans spent," she said. "It was a party that didn't sound like America. This is such a compelling and dramatic moment for people all over."
There was jubilation on the streets of Washington with Obama's re-election. Janice Brown, 30, a staffing consultant who lives in Suitland, Md., stood in a corner of Busboys and Poets restaurant, excited and relieved. "It's awesome for America. Not only is he a great leader, but he is inspiring. His impact is more than on politics - it's on the social fabric."