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Pride flag: A history of the Gilbert Baker rainbow design

CNN logo CNN 6/7/2019 Jacopo Prisco, CNN
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The rainbow flag, which has become a universal symbol of hope for LGBTQ people around the world, first flew in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza for Gay Pride Day, on June 25, 1978.

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It had eight colors -- two more than today's version -- and was designed by Gilbert Baker, an openly gay artist and activist. He had been commissioned to design a symbol for the LGBTQ community by his friend Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California.

a large building: In 2003 a record-setting 8,000 feet long by 16 feet wide rainbow flag flew in Florida. © Getty Images/Getty Images North America/Getty Images In 2003 a record-setting 8,000 feet long by 16 feet wide rainbow flag flew in Florida.

Baker drew inspiration from the US national flag, which had celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, and an actual rainbow, which displays the colors of the light spectrum in roughly the same sequence as the flag. He assigned a meaning to each of the colors: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for harmony and violet for spirit.

a person jumping up in the air: Two women kiss as they take part in the Bucharest Pride 2018 March gay pride parade on June 9, 2018. - The rainbow flag created by artist Gilbert Baker became the symbol of the PRIDE movement 40 years ago, in San Francisco where thousands of people marched on the streets of the city asking respect for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images) © DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/AFP/Getty Images Two women kiss as they take part in the Bucharest Pride 2018 March gay pride parade on June 9, 2018. - The rainbow flag created by artist Gilbert Baker became the symbol of the PRIDE movement 40 years ago, in San Francisco where thousands of people marched on the streets of the city asking respect for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

The first flag measured 30 by 60 feet and Baker, who was then 27 years old, had sewn it by hand. "When it went up and the wind finally took it out of my hands, it blew my mind," he told CNN in a 2015 interview. "I saw immediately how everyone around me owned that flag. I thought: It's better than I ever dreamed."

a colorful kite: Rainbow flags are seen at the Stonewall National Monument, the first LGBTQ national monument, dedicated to the birthplace of modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights movement on June 4, 2019 in New York City. - Pride Month 2019 marks The Stonewall 50th Anniversary. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images) © ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images Rainbow flags are seen at the Stonewall National Monument, the first LGBTQ national monument, dedicated to the birthplace of modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights movement on June 4, 2019 in New York City. - Pride Month 2019 marks The Stonewall 50th Anniversary. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

After that successful debut, Baker removed two colors from the design to make it easier to mass produced, dropping pink and turquoise and settling with the current six-hue configuration.

Baker died in 2017, aged 65. In the same 2015 CNN interview, he revealed the rationale behind the design of the flag. "We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that," he said.

"We're an ancient, wonderful tribe of people. We picked something from nature. We picked something beautiful."

a man sitting in front of a crowd: Gilbert Baker in 2003.

Gilbert Baker in 2003.
© AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

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