black-fridayAs Thanksgiving and the inevitable Black Friday shopping day nears, I found myself wondering how this shopping frenzy all began. I scoured the internet for as many sources as I could find that would tell me not only when Americans started shopping in masses the day after Thanksgiving, but why. Most importantly, how did that day get the name Black Friday? The answers to these questions are not so cut and dry as one might think.

We begin our journey during the Civil War on October 3rd, 1863. President Abraham Lincoln announces that the United States will officially celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and that this holiday will be held on the 4th Thursday of November each year. The first Thanksgiving was thus celebrated on November 26, 1863. As Thanksgiving falls on November 26th this year, we will be celebrating 152 years of tradition to the day.

By the early 1920’s, several retailers sponsored parades to celebrate this national holiday. In 1924 Macy’s held their first Thanksgiving Day Parade. At the end of each parade came Santa Claus and officially marked the beginning of the holiday season. It became wide practice that retailers would not advertise Christmas sales until after the conclusion of Thanksgiving. With such a hard fast unwritten rule in place, the day after Thanksgiving quickly became the day to shop for the holidays and be the first to see all the specials.

As time went on, shopping on the day after Thanksgiving increased in popularity. Many businesses treated the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday in itself. Even school was not held on this day. However there were some groups of workers that were forced into working the day after Thanksgiving each year. In as early as 1951, business owners were using the term ‘Black Friday’ to refer to the number of employees to call in sick the day after Thanksgiving.

Philadelphia is more widely credited with boosting the popularity of the phrase during the 1960’s. Things were particularly troublesome the day after Thanksgiving as police were forced into working twelve hour shifts and crowds filled the streets. According to snopes.com, “the term ‘Black Friday’ came out of the old Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad. The cops used it to describe the worst traffic jams which annually occurred in Center City on the Friday after Thanksgiving.” During the 1980’s, retailers began using the phrase in association with the big shopping day to signify when their red (negative or loss) accounting book entries turned to black (positive or profits). By the 90’s retailers were using the term in advertising for holiday specials and sales taking place the day after Thanksgiving.

In the early 2000’s retailers began opening their doors earlier and earlier. In 2011, several major retailers announced they would open doors at midnight. The next year, Walmart opened their doors at 8:00 PM Thanksgiving Day. Today stores are opening as early as 5 PM on Thanksgiving Day. With this new trend, I can’t help but wonder how long we will continue to call it Black Friday?

Will you be out shopping on Black Friday or clicking on computer keys enjoying cyber deals from the comfort of your own home? Perhaps you will be boycotting the holiday by remaining firmly on your couch digesting those delicious holiday foods. If you are one of the hard working Americans that will be taking up a post directing traffic or ringing up items, I thank you and wish you a happy day after the day after Thanksgiving.

As African-American History Month draws to a close and Women’s History Month begins, celebrate both by discovering these turn-of-the-twentieth-century African-American women activists on your library’s shelves:

 

IdaBWellsJournalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) first spoke out against the lynching of blacks in the South from the pages of her own Memphis, Tennessee newspaper. This act began her fierce campaign to end the injustice through her lectures and writings. On Lynchings collects three of her influential publications on the subject.

 

 

 

TerrellIn her 1940 autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) describes her career as a speaker dedicated to advancing the causes of civil rights and women’s suffrage.

 

 

 

 

 

Callie houseHistorian Mary Frances Berry rescues Callie House (1861–1928) from obscurity in My Face is Black is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations. Founder of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, House began a grass-roots movement calling for Congress to compensate former slaves for the labor they performed during centuries of captivity.

 

 

 

 

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Explore the lives of other remarkable African-American women with Biography in Context. This online database conveniently gathers information from reference works, academic publications, newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, websites, and other sources to create”media-rich” profiles of historical figures, writers, artists, celebrities, and other prominent individuals.

smithsonian civil warSmithsonian Civil War – Inside the National Collection is a lavishly illustrated coffee-table book featuring 150 entries in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. From among tens of thousands of Civil War objects in the Smithsonian’s collections, curators handpicked 550 items and wrote a unique narrative that begins before the war through the Reconstruction period.

The perfect book for history lovers, Smithsonian Civil War combines one-of-a-kind, famous, and previously unseen relics from the war in a truly unique narrative. Smithsonian Civil War takes the reader inside the great collection of Americana housed at twelve national museums and archives and brings historical gems to light. From the National Portrait Gallery come rare early photographs of Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant; from the National Museum of American History, secret messages that remained hidden inside Lincoln’s gold watch for nearly 150 years; from the National Air and Space Museum, futuristic Civil War-era aircraft designs. Thousands of items were evaluated before those of greatest value and significance were selected for inclusion here. Artfully arranged in 150 entries, they offer a unique, panoramic view of the Civil War. (description from publisher)

American Canopy is a fascinating and unique historical work that tells the remarkable story of the relationship between Americans and trees across the entire span of our nation’s history.

The history of trees in America is no less remarkable than the history of the United States itself–from the majestic white pines of New England, coveted by the British Crown for use as masts in navy warships, to the orange groves of California, which lured settlers west. In fact, without the country’s vast forests and the hundreds of tree species they contained, there would have been no ships, docks, railroads, stockyards, wagons, barrels, furniture, newspapers, rifles, or firewood. No New York City, Miami, or Chicago. No Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, or Daniel Boone. America – if indeed it existed – would be a very different place without its millions of acres of trees.

As Eric Rutkow’s epic account shows, trees are indivisible from the country’s rise as both an empire and a civilization. Never before has anyone treated our country’s trees and forests as the subject of a broad historical study, and the result is an accessible, informative, and thoroughly entertaining read. (description from publisher)