The origin of “Black Friday”

   “Black Friday” is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a traditional family holiday, which marks the beginning of the Christmas Season. It is a day on which turkey stuffed Americans go shopping in major retailer stores, taking advantage of the season’s biggest holiday bargains. Even though the term is well known in Europe, many people don’t know the actual meaning of it.

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Image via GB-Shopping
    Many theories try to explain the true origin of the “Black Friday”. A recent myth from 2013 claims that that back in the 1800s plantation owners in the Southern states could buy slaves at a discount on the day after Thanksgiving, giving the name an ugly twist. In the 17th and 18th Century mainly slaves from the African continent were imported to work on the plantations, therefore giving the day its name of the “Black Friday”, because of the dark skin of the slaves. Even though the controversial theory makes sense, it was proven wrong by Snopes.com.
“Black Friday” however was first mentioned during a financial crisis on 24th of September, 1869. Two Wall street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, secretly teamed up to buy up the national gold reserve, creating an illusion of a sudden increase of demand and driving up the price. The duos goal was to sell the gold, which they bought at a relatively low price, with astounding profit. When the conspiracy was revealed the following Friday, the price-bubble exploded, causing the U.S. gold market to crash and sending Wall street barons into bankruptcy.Another theory claims, that the name originated from the Stock-exchange crash in 1929. In the aftermath of the crash, people were running around in panic, trying to save their money from the banks. The extend of the chaos in financial institutions and the black top hats, which were in fashion in the Wall street at that time, might have contributed to the “Black Friday”.

The term “Black Friday” gained national attention in the early 1980s, when merchants used it to refer to one of the most important shopping days in the year, because shops would “turn black”. It is the most promoted theory, since it claims that shops that operated in the loss, would finally turn profitable on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The story explains that the holiday shopping after Thanksgiving would cause the numbers in the financial records to change from red (loss) into black (profit).

History, a TV producer for historical research and documentation, claims that the only and true origin of the “Black Friday” is less sunny than the theory claimed by many major retailers. The producers explain that the name originated from a violent conflict in the 1950s. The police in Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaotic day after Thanksgiving where thousands and thousands of shoppers and tourist flooded the town, causing the traffic to halt and the over-crowded sidewalks and leading to disputes bewtween shoppers and law enforcers.

After the failed attempt by the industry to rename “Black Friday” to “Big Friday” in 1961, the marketing engineers managed to reinvent the name with a rather positive notion. The concept of the “red to black” was introduced and it stuck. Soon the holiday-shoppers and discount-hunters forgot the term’s darker roots, especially since the introduction of the “Cyber Monday”, the Monday  after Thanksgiving and the equivelant to the “Black Friday” in online stores.

Whether it was for the good or for the bad of the consumers that industry manipulates them to increase their revenue, is still up to debate!

– Carlo Giudice, S7DEA (EEB3), 27.11.2016

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