Does the term “Black Friday” have its roots in slave-era times?
The answer is no, but that didn’t stop many Americans from tweeting, texting and Facebook-ing the rumor, especially amid protests over Ferguson timed to hit the biggest shopping days of the year.
A message posted on New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith’s Instagram page on Nov. 25 + (now deleted) claiming that the term arose from the day after Thanksgiving, when slave traders would sell slaves at a discount to plantation owners for the coming winter. The post garnered more than 5,500 “likes” before it was pulled down. No one from the Knicks was immediately available to respond Sunday.
Singer Toni Braxton also linked the phony rumor to her Facebook page, saying “No Black Friday for me” the same day, garnering nearly 33,000 “likes” and more than 257,000 shares.
The rumor about Black Friday’s alleged slavery connections began well before the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. But after the decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the August shooting death of an unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, protesters waded into holiday shopping crowds across the country as part of the “Black Out Black Friday” campaign to draw attention to what they see as a miscarriage of justice, and the Internet rumor only added fuel to the fire. A Google search linking Black Friday and slaves nets more than 11 million results and dozens of Internet memes, about “the original Black Friday.”
But according to the website Snopes.com, the term “Black Friday” didn’t originate until nearly 100 years after the abolition of slavery. Snopes.com pointed to a 1951 reference where workers would call in sick on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get a four-day weekend. Later, Philadelphia police used the term in 1961 to describe out-of-control shoppers heading for the city’s downtown retail district after Thanksgiving.