Who Invented Black Friday?

Written by Zawareen Zakaria

2020 has bore witness to the dwindling of sales and consumerism overall due to the nature of the pandemic and the resulting closure of stores and restaurants worldwide in efforts to curb the spread. However, despite the increasingly concerning rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, with everyday being noted as the highest rate of cases to date, it cannot be refuted that the joy and good spirits of the holiday seasons that typically blanket the last two months of the year are palpable in its impending arrival.


November is always characterized by the gatherings of Thanksgiving and the immediate surge of shoppers at midnight on the Friday after. Known as Black Friday, it is considered worldwide as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas and New Year’s shopping season. The success of Black Friday for corporations has, over the years, resulted in an expansion of deals and savings into a “Cyber Monday” as well as a push for recognition of small businesses through “Small Business Saturday.” However, although the success is what caused this particular Friday to be dubbed “black” (because the surge of commercial consumption puts retailers and businesses “in the black”), the now joyous meaning of the phrase wasn’t always so cheery.


In truth, Black Friday, as was the case with other days preceded by the adjective “black” (Black Monday, Black Tuesday, etc.) was a day that a majority of people viewed with a negative outlook. Historically, the origins of “Black Friday” first appeared in 1869 in reference to a market crash caused by the drastic drop in gold prices, but its usage with the connotations of shopping that we know it by best was not used until the mid 1900s. Even back then, although it was not formally recognized as such, the days after Thanksgiving were considered by most retailers as the start for aggressive holiday sale advertisements – prior to that, the holiday shopping season did not kick off in full force.


In 1939, then-President Franklin Roosevelt was warned by the Retail Dry Goods Association that retail sales would tank if the holiday season as it has always started post-Thanksgiving continued to begin in that way. In response, Roosevelt moved up Thanksgiving, which was celebrated on November 30th traditionally until that year, to a week earlier – much to the ire of the general public, who had already finalized holiday travel plans. In addition to the dubbing of the new Thanksgiving date as “Franksgiving” and the continued celebration of Thanksgiving on the 30th in rebellion by most Americans, state governments were also confused by which Thanksgiving to observe and opted to mark both days as off-days.


Despite the initial negative reaction, by 1941 Americans had accepted the change and Congress cemented it into law by making Thanksgiving fourth Thursday in November. Since then, the holiday shopping season has officially been considered the day after Thanksgiving, and has been overwhelmingly worthwhile for retailers. However, this still doesn’t account for the negative connotation “Black” has before “Friday.”


In the mid 1960s, as determined by researchers, “Black Friday” as we know it now was first used in Philadelphia. During that time, this Friday following Thanksgiving also preceded the Army-Navy football game, so it was all the more chaotic than usual, what with the spirit of the holidays, the shopping surges, and the football fans. While it was great for all participants in question, the coincidence of all the events following each other became a major headache for police officers, drivers, sales personnel, and anyone else involved in the overseeing of the Philly streets. It was then dubbed “Black Friday” to speak to the overall chaos that ensued, not necessarily for the economic benefit it had for retailers.


Black Friday today is still one of the biggest shopping days in the country and worldwide and, as aforementioned, has led to the creation of “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday” to extend its consumerist benefits. However, it must be remembered that the holiday season of 2020, no matter the level of festivities and discounts that follow, will still be marred by the immense loss that the world has suffered due to the pandemic and all the unfortunate disasters that have befallen us this year.


The holiday seasons are always shrouded in the gift of giving as much as it is also shrouded in the gifts we receive – whether we celebrate the upcoming holidays or not. This Thanksgiving and Black Friday, ICNA Relief is proud, Alhamdulillah, to present our “Treat Yo’ Self: By Treating Others” campaign. In recognition of the hardships of this year and the blessings of charity both in these last few weeks of the year as well as year-round, we hope that you will shop for your hereafter instead of only the present by giving to your neighbors in need. Charity will shade the believer on the Day of Resurrection (Tirmidhi), and it will be equally beneficial to all parties involved to treat oneself – “yo’ self”—by treating others. Please visit our Treat Yo’ Self campaign page to learn about the different campaigns you can donate to this Black Friday, InshAllah. We at ICNA Relief wish you all a wonderful winter season and the greatest of blessings year-round.