Every year, as the noblest day of November, is approaching, the tales about Black Friday in the context of slave selling day emerge from the internet and social media. There are many articles that claim the greatest shopping day in the world has its foundations in one of the darkest corners of human history – slavery. Allegedly, around the 1800s, the day after Thanksgiving was nicknamed Black Friday by the plantation owners because they were able to buy slaves at incredible discounts. There are even claims that those sales were so glorious because of the so-called virgin bonus. If a plantation owner was to purchase a certain number of slaves he would receive ownership over a young girl who had never before laid with a man.
These statements are, by most of the public, considered to be wild theories and publicity drawing attempts based on pure imagination. Historians have still not confirmed the existence of proofs that could be taken seriously and make us think twice about the post-thanksgiving tradition of shopping mall stampedes.
Are the Rumors of Black Friday as a Slave Selling Day Based on Truth?
The most objective answer to this question is yes and no.
Yes – Why Black Friday Slavery Rumors are based on a portion of truth?
There might have been some closed circles of plantation owners that had been giving discounts between themselves. Thanksgiving, after all, did, as it was previously stated, originated from harvest festival which roots dive in the old era. Briefly, Harvest Festival is the worldwide present custom of celebrating successful harvest which, back in the old times, required a lot of hard work and luck. Considering this fact it is possible and very probable that after completing the most important survival task, besides celebration, societies used to give some additional benefits. One of them was being able to buy slaves at discount. And the time of year was making a perfect sense. Harvest would be finished in September which is the beginning of the autumn. Knowing that the winter is coming which meant a lot of additional work, wealthy families would be in need of additional slaves for cutting and chopping firewood, winterproofing, etc… And if there is somebody’s need there also is a seller’s greed. Those who had many slaves in their possessions surely wanted to use the earning opportunity and in order to make the profits higher, they made a thoughtful discount that would create both-sided satisfaction.
Conclusion 1: Time After Harvest Was Attractive for Selling Slaves
Since Thanksgiving is originating from harvest Festival which was just analyzed, we can see that the incoming days, together with the day after Thanksgiving, were very likely featured with slave selling.
Black Friday in the U.S. Before The Civil War
Thanksgiving was celebrated while slavery was active in the New World. Truth, Thanksgiving wasn’t the national holiday before the times of the Civil War but it was still a holiday that was celebrated intermittently in many parts of the American continent. Those parts had their own culture and customs. For example, in some regions, the morning of Thanksgiving day was reserved for competition in marksmanship. Turkeys were the targets for the shootout. In the evening a raffle would be held and turkeys would be the prizes. If there were random customs for thanksgiving which was, after all, a mutual holiday, isn’t it logical that the uniqueness applied for the day after? Considering that, and previously stated facts about winter, some of the regions, within the social circles of plantation owners, probably had the event of selling slaves at high discounts. And the day after Thanksgiving was an excellent choice of time.
Conclusion 2: Yes in Some Regions of New World the Day After Thanksgiving was Probably Used for Selling Slaves at Discounts
Regarding these facts we could, without making a mistake, state that some faces of Thanksgiving gave birth to a Black Friday as slave selling day.
Black Friday in the U.S. After the Civil War
If we chose to dispute the identity of harvest festival origination holiday before Abraham Lincoln proclaiming it for a federal holiday in 1863 then we need to have a completely new approach. The outcome of the Civil War did break the slavery but it hasn’t done that overnight. There were some regions where for a full decade or more, masters did whatever they wanted with their servants. And even if this claim wasn’t true, the presence of racism cannot be denied. The same thing applies to the fact that for a long time white-skinned people were committing repression over black people. And that was, what we well know, breaking the law that gave rights to everyone. If something is formally forbidden it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t happen. This fact applies for slavery too. But despite this, it is less likely that after the Civil War, there were any organized slave selling events in a measure enough large to be considered for a custom that determines the nature of a holiday and the day that comes after.
No – Why Black Friday Slavery Rumors mostly aren’t true?
There are no credible pieces of evidence that Black Friday was the day specifically used for selling slaves at discounts. In addition to this claim, there is no proof that the day after Thanksgiving was used for selling the enslaved population at lower prices. These two sentences seem to say the same thing but if you read every word carefully you might realize the crucial distinction – Black Friday and the day after Thanksgiving.
Here are some useful and undeniable facts:
- At the times of slavery, the term Black Friday had still never been used. The first occurrence of its usage happened on September 24, 1869. It was the day on which the crash of the U.S. gold market happened due to a famous conspiracy implemented by two notorious Wallstreet sharks. Civil War had ended in 1865 which means that slaves had been free for four years.
- Thanksgiving day has been celebrated intermittently since 1789 with the proclamation by George Washington. For almost 70 years it was celebrated in the times of slavery. Its origins are founded in a harvest festival which goes way back into the past – to the old era itself. And that was, all historians will agree, the time when slavery was part of everyday life. And, of course, everyday life in all eras and times, implied buying and selling which back then meant both things and servants. But exactly this fact strips us of right to call the day after Thanksgiving slave selling day because there is no proof that the day after Thanksgiving was any different than the other days of the year. Somewhere in America, some slaves were sold on a discount on the day that pushes us to have this debate, but so were on Monday. And Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… And so on. But this fact doesn’t make the rest of days slavery black.
- Black Friday term had gotten to the wider usage because of Philadelphia policemen who nicknamed the day of Army vs Navy football game because of all the troubles they had with the crowd. And all that was in the middle of the 20th century.
Considering these facts together with the absence of credible proofs for slavery theories, the most objective thing to do would be discarding Black Friday context of discount slave selling day.
Human history is a place of dark memories and all of the days have their dark origin. So it stands for Black Friday, and while it is not purely based on slave selling part of the greatest shopping day originates in the degradation of human lives and treating human beings as chattel. If you want to hear what others think, you might want to watch this video.