The History Behind Black Friday

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Black Friday is something that comes every year and is often associated with bargains and crowds. But what is the history of this term, Black Friday?

There are many theories as to where this term originated, but one of the most popular ones claimed that retailers in the 1980’s used it as the one day of the year that they went “into the black”, meaning made a profit. The rest of the year they claimed was “in the red”.

An unpleasant theory claims that the name dates back to the southern plantation owners in the 1800’s. The day after Thanksgiving slaves could be bought at a discount, but there is no factual evidence to prove this theory has any truth.

The first time this term was recorded was back in 1869 during the financial crash of the U.S. gold market which was caused by two Wall Street financiers. It has since been used in 1910 when suffragettes had a peaceful protest while marching on Parliament, but were assaulted and arrested by policemen. It was also used to describe the 1919 Battle of George Square in Glasgow when workers went on strike to try and and get shorter working hours.

The most accurate history though of the consumerists usage of the term “Black Friday” came from the Philadelphia Police Department's traffic squad. In 1994, the journalist Joseph P. Barrett wrote that the cops started using this term to describe the traffic jams that occurred the Friday after Thanksgiving when everyone was coming into the city for shopping and for the Army-Navy football game.

He wrote, "Today the term seems lost in antiquity, but it was a traffic cop who started it, the guy who directed traffic with a semaphore while standing on a small wooden platform, in the days before traffic lights." And now Black Friday has become a day that shoplifters love and law enforcements hate.

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