Barack Obama told supporters that "change has come to America," as he addressed the country for the first time as the president-elect. "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there," Obama said in Chicago, Illinois. Police estimated that 125,000 people gathered in Grant Park to hear Obama claim victory.
Obama said he was looking forward to working with Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin "to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead."
McCain on Tuesday urged all Americans to join him in congratulating Sen. Barack Obama on his projected victory in the presidential election.
"I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face," McCain said before his supporters in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much, and tonight, I remain her servant," he said.
McCain called Obama to congratulate him, Obama's campaign said.
Obama thanked McCain for his graciousness and said he had waged a tough race.
President Bush also called Obama to congratulate him.ush told Obama he was about to begin one of the great journeys of his life, and invited him to visit the White House as soon as it could be arranged, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
With his projected win, Obama will become the nation's 44th president and its first African-American leader.
Supporters in Chicago cheering, "Yes, we can" were met with cries of "Yes, we did."
More than 1,000 people gathered outside of the White House, chanting, "Obama, Obama!"
Obama's former rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton said in a statement that "we are celebrating an historic victory for the American people."
"This was a long and hard fought campaign but the result was well worth the wait. Together, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and a Democratic Congress, we will chart a better course to build a new economy and rebuild our leadership in the world."
The Illinois senator is projected to pick up a big win in Virginia, a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964.Obama also is projected to beat McCain in Ohio, a battleground state that was considered a must-win for the Republican candidate.
Going into the election, national polls showed Obama with an 8-point lead.
Obama will be working with a heavily Democratic Congress. Democrats picked up Senate seats in New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, among others.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell held onto his seat in Kentucky.
CNN's Ed Henry said there were lots of long faces in the lobby of the McCain headquarters at the Arizona Biltmore hotel as McCain allies watched returns showing Senate Republicans losing their seats. Voters expressed excitement and pride in their country after casting their ballots Tuesday in what has proved to be a historic election.
Poll workers reported high turnout across many parts of the country, and some voters waited hours to cast their ballots.
Reports of minor problems and delays in opening polls began surfacing early Tuesday, shortly after polls opened on the East Coast.
The presidential candidates both voted early in the day before heading out to the campaign trail one last time. Video Tuesday also marked the end of the longest presidential campaign season in U.S. history -- 21 months.
As McCain and Obama emerged from their parties' conventions, the race was essentially a toss-up, with McCain campaigning on his experience and Obama on the promise of change. But the race was altered by the financial crisis that hit Wall Street in September.
The past, they say, is a foreign country, and none, perhaps, more foreign to modern eyes than the Monticello of Thomas Jefferson and his slaves.
It was a place where a woman could own her half-sister, where a man could buy his uncle for a dollar at auction, and where for nearly 40 years the master of the house — author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States — could carry on an intimate relationship with his biracial chambermaid, fathering seven children with her, three of whom chose as adults to live as white people.
The Tom and Sally story, anyway, isn't new, having roiled the waves buoying up Mr. Jefferson's reputation for more than 200 years. Some have believed it, some haven't, some have fingered Jefferson's nephews, Peter and Samuel Carr, as responsible for Sally Hemings' light-skinned children.
However, DNA tests in 1998 knocked the naysayers back on their heels. Those tests established a genetic link between Jefferson and Hemings descendants and none between Carr and Hemings descendants. So now, within the academic community at least, the issue seems to be settled. As historian Joseph J. Ellis (American Sphinx), a converted skeptic, has put it, there may not be "absolute proof" of Thomas Jefferson's paternity but there is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
While Sally Hemings' name has entered the history books, most people don't realize she wasn't the only Hemings at Monticello, that in fact she was part of a large and remarkable mixed-race enslaved family who worked as butlers, personal servants, house maids and skilled artisans — with whom, in short, Jefferson lived in close daily contact for decades.
That family is the subject of The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed, an East Texas native who teaches law and practices history. Bearing laudatory blurbs by big-name historians like Ellis, Edmund S. Morgan and David Levering Lewis, the book, published in September, has been nominated for a National Book Award. Gordon-Reed visits Houston on Wednesday for an appearance at Brazos Bookstore.
She set out to write about enslaved people not as some great undifferentiated mass but as individuals, Gordon-Reed said in a telephone interview from New York, where she teaches law at New York Law School and history at Rutgers University.
"I want people to make a connection to them as James Hemings, as Sally Hemings, as Robert Hemings, who are all different people. Showing the individuality of enslaved people, getting people to think about their inner lives, I hope plows new ground."
Those who have followed the Tom and Sally saga will recognize Gordon-Reed's name. In 1997 the University of Virginia Press published her first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. But her interest in Jefferson dates back to her Texas childhood.
Nowadays, few academic historians would confess publicly to doubting the sexual liaison between America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, and his mulatto slave, Sally Hemings. According to Hemings family tradition, Jefferson fathered all seven of Hemings's known children. But to this day, most of the Jefferson clan will have none of it. The Monticello Association, an organization composed of about 800 of Jefferson's lineal descendants, refuses admission to the third president's putative African-American descendants. Which means, among other things, that they may not be buried in the family graveyard at Monticello, Jefferson's home outside Charlottesville, Va., where Sally Hemings spent 52 of her 62 years.
The public controversy that has swirled around Jefferson since the 1790s has as much to do with proof as it does with belief or disbelief. Of course, racism has been known to masquerade as historical objectivity; and the Hemings-Jefferson case is surely no exception.
But do skeptics have a point? In the absence of any written correspondence between Hemings and Jefferson, how could we possibly know?
A pathologist named Eugene A. Foster collected blood samples from male descendants on both sides. When the journal Nature published Foster's test results in 1998, the news spread like wildfire through the international press. It was true: a Jefferson was definitely the father of one of Sally Hemings's children. That man, it's generally agreed, was Thomas Jefferson.
Soon after the DNA announcement, Oprah Winfrey brought two Jeffersons and some 25 of their Hemings cousins together for a poignant televised racial reunion that didn't, alas, delight all Jeffersons. And the saga shows no sign of ending.
Out of genealogical warfare and academic torment, Annette Gordon-Reed has drawn a sobering moral lesson of almost Shakespearean dimensions. Ten years in the writing and a finalist for a 2008 National Book Award, "The Hemingses of Monticello" reconstructs in lavish detail the knotted lives of Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings and her siblings, from the birth of Hemings's mother to Jefferson's death in 1826. The result is a riveting and compassionate family portrait that deserves to endure as a model of historical inquiry. In a field overcrowded with hagiographies of the Founding Fathers—and equally tiresome denunciations—this book stands dramatically apart for its searching intelligence and breadth of humane vision.
Sally Hemings could not have asked for a more ingenious chronicler of her remarkable life, which, with few exceptions, has been consigned (often contemptuously) to the bin of obscurity. Gordon-Reed, a professor of law at New York Law School and of history at Rutgers University, anchors "The Hemingses of Monticello" firmly in the past. But the present lingers powerfully enough. This alone should appeal to serious readers with time to invest. At a door-stopping 798 pages, "The Hemingses of Monticello" scarcely qualifies as a beach read. But the pages fly by. Anyone interested in learning about what it meant to be a human being and a slave in the 18th Century will delight in Gordon-Reed's evocation of everyday life at Monticello and in Paris, where 14-year-old Sally Hemings spent two years with Jefferson, from 1787 to 1789, while he completed his term as minister to France. It was in Paris, apparently, that the two began their 38-year relationship—and where Hemings became pregnant.
It was there, too, that Hemings's enslaved brother James—himself a remarkable, sexually ambiguous character—spent five years learning to become a chef. He would serve Jefferson at Monticello but never at the White House, whose staff he declined to join despite Jefferson's invitation. He committed suicide in 1801. Gordon-Reed has snatched James Hemings from oblivion, reconstructed his life with loving detail. Readers will find him as compelling as his sister.