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Gilbert Baker

This is an original Gilbert Baker flag.
Photo credit: Syracuse New Times

The Rainbow Flag: the LGBTQ symbol was designed by artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 at the request of San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk. The original flag featured eight stripes; hot pink; red; orange; yellow; green; turquoise; indigo; and violet. In June of ’78, Milk rode in the city’s Pride Parade under Baker’s creation. Five months later, on 27 November, Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated.

 

Rainbow flag flies in the Castro.

 

In 1979, the flag was redesigned;

today the iconic six-barred

Rainbow Flag is known the world over.

 

 

Baker in New York, 1994
Photo: Mick Hicks

Gilbert Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas on 2 June, 1951. He grew up in Parsons, Kansas where his grandmother owned a women’s clothing store. From 1970 to 1972, Baker served in the United States Army. He was stationed in San Francisco at the beginning of the gay rights movement; after his honorable discharge, Baker taught himself to sew, and he used his skill to design banners for gay rights, as well as anti-war protest marches. It was during this time that Baker became friends with Harvey Milk.

In 1979, Baker began work Paramount Flag company in San Francisco. He designed flags for United States Senator, Dianne Feinstein, The Premier of China, the King of Spain, and presidents of France, Venezuela, and the Philippines. In 1984, he designed flags for the Democratic National Convention. All the while, he continued to design creations for San Francisco Gay Pride.

Baker moved to New York City in 1994. That year he created the world’s largest flag for its time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In 2003, he created a Rainbow Flag that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in Key West to commemorate the flag’s 25th anniversary; after the commemoration, he sent sections of this flag to more than 100 cities around the world.

Gilbert Baker, aged 65 died in his sleep in New York City on 31 March, 2017.