On June 19, artist Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag in 1978, shared his memories of that period and the flag’s creation in a discussion at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco with longtime activist and friend, Cleve Jones.
The rainbow flag is so iconic, so ubiquitous, so universally recognized, that there is a habitual tendency to think that it has always flown to represent queer Pride. Yet it is not so: it was created and consciously adopted in the streets of San Francisco, when activists spoke of gay liberation rather than LGBT acceptance in the after-fires of the political fires of the late 1970s. And no, it wasn’t created because we’re all friends of Dorothy.
“1977 — that was a pivotal year,” Baker said. “That was the year of Anita Bryant. That was he year Harvey (Milk) was elected. That was the year we became galvanized.”
It was also the year after the American Bicentennial Celebration, a period that Baker said made him more flag conscious as cranked out hundreds of banners and signs for the endless parades that activists were busily organizing.