While some of us will be sleeping away a turkey overdose, many Americans will be out in the world shopping this Friday. The unofficial holiday, also known as "Black Friday," is supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the year. While many legends have arisen as to how the day got its name, the truth is very much against the shoppers.
Two prominent myths surround the naming of Black Friday. The first is less common and more ugly: that this was the day plantation owners would reduce the price of slaves. The second is the accepted history of the day, that the day after Thanksgiving is the only day retailers are sure to be "in the black" or to make a profit because of high sales.
Neither of these myths are true. No evidence has been found about plantation owners lowering prices on any specific day. As for the busiest shopping day of the year, that commonly falls on the weekend before Christmas as those late present buyers scramble.
Black Friday itself gets its name from two places. The first is outlined in a 1951 memo that had more to do with people calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving (also known as Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itus, the most creative name they could think of). Because the businesses were understaffed, they called it Black Friday.
The second naming of Black Friday comes from the Philadelphia police department. As early as 1961, the police began calling the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" and "Black Saturday" (more names from the creative department) because of the number of suburban people who would flood the city to do their holiday shopping on their days off. The traffic jams and thefts that were associated with the large number of people moving into the city and caused the police many problems.
With these two overwhelming sources of angst from business owners and police circulating, the derogatory term "Black Friday" carried the meaning the bad behavior of employees and shoppers until the 1980s. At that time, the term was "re-branded" by business owners to highlight sales. Offering sales at this time allowed for companies to circulate inventory at the beginning of the holiday season just as Santa took his place in department stores.
SourcesWhat’s the Real History of Black Friday? - History.com
Black Friday - Snopes.com
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