UMass Dartmouth’s Rainbow Flag

Campus at sunset

For Pride Month, I looked into the origin of the rainbow flag flown at the entrance to the university. UMass Dartmouth’s flag was raised 27 years ago, on January 16, 1992 in recognition of the university’s commitment to cultural diversity. It is a 6-striped rainbow flag, including red, yellow, orange, green, blue and violet stripes. The rainbow flag was first introduced in 1978 for the gay community in San Francisco by artist Gilbert Baker and has become a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride. The original design had 8 stripes – pink, red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, or cyan, indigo and violet. Variations in the number and arrangement of the stripes abound with various meanings. According to some sources, the 6-striped version, popular since 1979, was easier to mass produce, and is therefore more common. Included here is a copy of the memo from John Bush, Head of Affirmative Action and Cultural Diversity at UMass Dartmouth, to Interim Chancellor Joseph Deck in 1992 relaying the background on the selection of the flag. Bush then repeated use of the colors of the flag in a 1992 publication from the Office of Affirmative Action and Cultural Diversity, now the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion entitled “Where We Stand.” Interim Chancellor Helm, in 2016 included the rainbow flag in the university’s official flag policy, noting that it would fly continuously year-round.

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