Forty years ago this month, the first Rainbow Flag was stitched together. Since then much has changed including the flag itself, which went from eight stripes to six. A symbol of Pride seen across the country not just in June, when we celebrate LGBT history, but all year long. The creation of the flag and the man who inspired it, Harvey Milk, is a story beautifully told in a recent picture book by Rob Sanders titled PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag.
We asked Sanders if there was a personal story behind his decision to write the book, and there is. Below Sanders talks about a momentous day in our country's recent history, and how that inspired him to share Harvey Milk's message of hope, equality, and love with young people.
*PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag is one of our editors' picks for the best nonfiction children's books of 2018 so far
A Moment in History, a Moment of Inspiration
By Rob Sanders
I remember the exact moment I was inspired to write Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag. Friday, June 26, 2015, had been an exhilarating day as news of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision flooded the airwaves and social media. Immediately, celebrations began throughout the country and around the world. Couples, long denied the opportunity to marry, lined up to wed. Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community gathered at the Stonewall Inn and in the Castro District, and friends and family members reached out to each other with excitement and disbelief. That night, landmarks from coast to coast were awash in the colors of the Rainbow Flag. Then another image flashed across my television. The White House was glowing with six colorful stripes.
That was the moment when I knew the world in which I lived as a gay man and the world in which I worked as an elementary school teacher and a children’s author would never be the same. I felt that the story of the rainbow colors that represent the pride of our community needed to be told. That night I wrote the first draft of Pride. It was not based on research (that would come in the following days and weeks), but rather on the sheer emotions of the day. It was a story from my heart about the heart of the LGBTQ+ community. It was intended to touch the hearts of others, and to celebrate the monumental changes that had occurred in the gay rights movement.
Research did follow, including thoughtful comments about the manuscript from the designer of the Pride Flag, Gilbert Baker. Revisions were made. New drafts were produced. As the manuscript changed, so did the world around me. Hate speech soon became the new—or new again—norm. Rights that had been won were threatened, trusted advocates left office, facts and history were questioned and disparaged. The story that was meant to be a celebration turned into a story with a deeper purpose. It became a story of necessity.
A new generation of children needs to hear the history of the Pride Flag and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. They need to know, understand, and celebrate the message of equality, pride, hope, and love that the Rainbow Flag represents. And we, as a community, need to ensure that this new generation is prepared to continue the fight for equality.
Harvey Milk once said, “You have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow. . . .” On the fortieth anniversary of the creation of the Pride Flag, we have to give hope to this generation of children.
Important moments and movements in civil rights history must be shared to help us remember where we’ve come from, to inspire us to persevere in difficult times, and to set us on a clear path for the future. Hopefully, this book will contribute to those efforts.
LGBTQ+–Themed Book Recommendations from Rob Sanders:
- About our history—Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen
- About being yourself—Be Who You Are! by Todd Parr
- About gender identity—Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
- About same-sex relationships—Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian and Mike Curato
- About the importance of allies—Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman and Maria Mola