History

When Did Black Friday Start?

For many, the day after Thanksgiving is the best time to nab some great deals on Christmas gifts. Every year, we see some pretty shocking videos of shoppers storming doors and fighting over items. Sometimes, things even get violent. When did this tradition start?

Shopping after Thanksgiving first gained mainstream attention after the 1924 Macy’s Day Parade, but the term “Black Friday” wasn’t used. In the 1950’s, we see the term used to describe the crowds gathering to shop at the start of the holiday season. Traffic was extra bad because of tourists in town for an Army-Navy football game, a game traditionally played in Philadelphia the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

For the police and department store owners, “Black Friday” was not a positive term, but stores continued to use it in the years following.  By 1985, stores nationwide were marketing on-sale products using “Black Friday,” though they tried explaining it by saying the numerous sales could put a business from “in the red” to “in the black.”


If you’re an active Facebook user, you might have seen a meme going around in recent years claiming that the term was used in the 1800’s by slave traders lowering their prices for slaves the day after Thanksgiving. This is definitely not true and it’s been debunked by multiple historians. While “Black Friday” has been used in different contexts and in different countries, it never referred to holiday slave auctions in North America.

With the rise of online shopping, you’ll see fewer crowds at department stores, which is a huge relief to the employees. What should you consider buying, if you participate? Toys are usually significantly discounted, while you can usually find decent deals on tech products, makeup, and even plane tickets. You can also consider waiting until Amazon’s Cyber Monday to find some great sales.