Black Friday’s Dark Origins

Why is Black Friday called “Black Friday”?

Seems pretty simple – it’s the day retailers go “into the black,” or turn a profit for the year.  But it turns out the term has a darker, less happy origin.

In 1966, Black Friday was the name the Philadelphia Police Department gave to the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The police hated the day — massive traffic jams, overcrowded sidewalks, lots of shoplifters — all because downtown Philly stores were filled with shoppers taking advantage of the first holiday sales.

The goal was to make it a day that shoppers wanted to avoid.  The negative name started to spread outside Philadelphia a few years later.  In a 1975 Associated Press article, datelined Philadelphia, a sales manager at Gimbels was quoted as saying, “That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday.’”

At the time, she was watching a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers.

“They think in terms of headaches it gives them,” she said.

It was only later that retailers, and other people who rely on Black Friday to make money, attempted to redefine the term as something positive.

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