arts & letters
sanders rally in birmingham

Shane Hand is a graduate student in the Department of History and a fantastic photographer. He recently went to a rally for Bernie Sanders in Birmingham, Alabama with fellow graduate student Emma Fontenot (Information and Library Science) to study Sanders' particular appeal to millennials. Shane sent us these amazing photos they took, as well as his commentary on the experience.


The College of Arts and Letters does not endorse any political candidate, but we encourage all our students, faculty, staff, and friends in the community to participate in the political process and support the candidate of their choice.

Bernie Sanders’ “A Future To Believe In” rally in Birmingham, AL, on Monday January 18,  2016.

Bernie supporters packed the city’s Boutwell Auditorium with its seating capacity of 6,000. Sanders enjoys widespread grassroots support with over 75% of campaign donations consisting of contributions of $200 or less.

"Popular interest and anti-establishment sentiment, on both sides of the political spectrum, have characterized the 2016 presidential race thus far. With much of the nation’s interest presently focused on Iowa, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders took a trip south to Birmingham, AL, holding a rally celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Day. Ohio Senator Nina Turner and philosopher Cornel West joined Sanders’s “A Future To Believe In” rally to discuss Dr. King’s legacy, Birmingham, and the need for a president like senator Bernie Sanders.


"On Monday, January 18,  2016, two graduate students from The University of Southern Mississippi, Emma Fontenot and Shane Hand, traveled to Birmingham, AL, to document and experience for themselves a Bernie Sanders rally. The two were particularly interested in Sanders appeal to younger voters, especially those under thirty-five, the millennials. Emma and Shane took hundreds of photographs and recorded several interviews. The following pictures come from this rally and the millennials they interviewed overwhelmingly reported that Bernie is someone who will take a stand against establishment politics and who will address their needs related to healthcare and education." – Shane Hand


Bernie Sanders, a popular yet controversial democratic candidate for president, speaks to an energized audience “feeling the Bern.” Bernie’s message resonates with voters outside his home state of Vermont. What is surprising, however, is his appeal to “Millennials” as he would be the oldest person ever elected president.

Millennials, a generation of almost 80 million, were born between 1980 and the early 2000s. These young, optimistic pragmatists are socially liberal and concerned about student loan debt, health care, and economic disparity.


Sanders supporter wearing a Bernie button that reads, “Bern Baby Bern.” Many millennials support Sanders because they believe he Is a non-traditional politician who will fight the political establishment.

Bernie’s appeal to Millennials,voters under thirty-five, was evident at the rally in Birmingham. Auburn University sent two busloads of students to the event.


A political rally offers more than an opportunity to see your favorite candidate; it is also an opportunity to express concerns and have your voice heard.

These two voters are ready for Bernie’s political revolution because “Enough is Enough.”

Millennials tend to be socially liberal, and if they turn out to vote they may have a greater effect on the election than the baby boomers.

Political rallies can be exciting events. Famous speakers, entertainers, or personalities are often showcased to introduce a candidate. Civil rights activist and philosopher Cornel West endorsed Sanders last August. West is an energetic speaker who attracts large audiences, and he is a strong supporter of Sanders.

Some in attendance were not familiar with Bernie Sanders, and they wanted to hear what he had to say and, maybe, “Feel the Bern” for themselves.


Due to his consistency over his long political career, voters under 35 perceive Sanders as someone they can trust.

While much of Sanders’ support comes from millennials, his campaign hopes to bring his message to minority populations.

Bernie Sanders’ growing popularity has been increasingly difficult for establishment politicians, on the left and right, to ignore.

An attendee takes a picture of Bernie Sanders.

With an auditorium filled to capacity, another 1,000 supporters watched the rally outside on a jumbo screen. These fervent Bernie supporters weathered below freezing temperatures for two hours to hear the candidate. By the end of the rally the temperature had dropped to 25ºF.

Emma Fontenot, current graduate student at USM in Library and Information Science. She holds an MA in political science.


Shane Hand, graduate student of U.S. history at USM.


Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

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