PURPLE, our color

Leading Up to Claiming Williams 2009

As the story goes, purple was adopted as Williams’ color after it was tentatively used in the 1865 championship baseball game against Harvard. (Harvard had made magenta its color, and Williams was want for a unifying hue.) Likely because of Williams’ victory, purple caught on, remaining the college’s official color. At the time, purple represented triumph over rival universities, inviting students to wear it mindful of this victory. Now, 144 years later, though still a source of pride, our purple has been inscribed with many new meanings, histories, and associations. The color conjures many different visions of the college, its many constituencies, and its many stories.

Wearing purple suggests not only staking a claim in Williams, but also acknowledging the many and disparate ways that others are staking their claims in Williams. Purple is no longer singular. When considering how others perceive the color, we can never be sure that it is rendered optically the same from one person to the next. So it is for Williams. That which bears the mark of purple, is being continuously expanded, reiterated, and redefined based on individual and collective experience. To claim Williams, to use purple, is thus to acknowledge the many interests, privileges, authorities, and memberships that define the relationships of Williams faculty, staff, students, and alums to each other and to the school.

Purple unites us, but also invites awareness of the differences of all the people that identify it and Williams as their own.