Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election has been hailed as an “historic day” by Oxford’s American community.

Many US ex-pats living in Oxford stayed up into the early hours of yesterday morning to witness Senator Obama sweep to victory as America’s first black president.

Louisiana-born Prof Marion Smith, 79, who lives in Botley Road, said he could never have imagined a black person becoming the leader of his country during the dark days of racial segregation which still prevailed in some parts of the country until the late 1960s.

Mr Smith, who stayed up until 3am to watch the election with his wife, Emilie, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. This is a proud and historic day for black Americans and America as a whole.

“I’m old enough to have experienced segregation as a white person and I remember when it was everywhere in schools, on buses, in restaurants, in public toilets.

“There were yobs back then who would go out on a weekend abusing blacks, calling them names, shouting at them and sometimes beating them up.

“I couldn’t see how black people endured the segregation and the daily humiliation. I never imagined a black person would rise to the highest position in office.”

Senator Obama, the Democrat party candidate from Chicago, won the election after defeating his Republican rival John McCain by 349 electoral college votes to 162.

Mr Smith, a retired professor of mathematics, who worked at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s on a programme to improve the level of teaching to black students, added: “I never would have believed it would have happened even up until last night. Neither my wife or I could believe that the polls were accurate.

“This is going to be a change of direction. I’m just so happy. This morning I heard the entire speech Obama gave on the acceptance of the presidency.

“It was very impressive. He seems to be a very talented leader and I now have a great hope for the future.”

The British citizen, who has lived in Oxford for almost 20 years, added: “Obama is of mixed race, an African American could not have done what he had done.

“There’s still such prejudice there that an African American would not have been able to do it.

“Now a real crack has appeared and this paves the way for more mixed race and African American leaders in future, no question.”

Mr Smith added he is now looking forward to returning to his homeland for the first time in seven years after boycotting the country because of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.