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Monique Curet
By Monique Curet December 1, 2021

Black Friday did not originate with the sale of enslaved people

If Your Time is short

The phrase "Black Friday" can be traced first to a gold market crash in 1869 and later to the headaches caused by post-Thanksgiving crowds who came to Philadelphia for an annual football game in the 1960s.

 The photo that accompanies the claim shows prisoners in Western Australia. 

A social media post falsely claims that a photo of Black people with shackles around their necks was taken "during the slave trade in America" and is "the sad history and meaning of Black Friday."

The viral Facebook post says Black Friday originated when enslaved people were sold at a discount to boost the economy. The photo is captioned  "Black Friday 1904," and text that accompanies it reads, "Hence Black (slaves were of African origin) Friday (the date of the sale on that Friday in November)."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) The post was published in 2018 but has recently resurfaced and is recirculating widely.

Black Friday did not begin with the sale of enslaved people. The year cited in the post was nearly 50 years after the abolition of slavery. And the photo that accompanies the post is of prisoners in Australia, not slaves in America.

The earliest references to Black Friday followed events in 1869, when two financiers bought up gold in an effort to drive prices higher. Their efforts ended in a gold market crash on a Friday, which led to the Black Friday moniker, the Associated Press reported.

Decades later, in the 1960s, the phrase "Black Friday" became associated with shopping after Thanksgiving. In Philadelphia, an annual Army-Navy football game held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving drew tourists to the city, and local retailers tried to woo them. Police referred to it as Black Friday because of the headaches the large crowds caused for them.

"Businesses later reclaimed the name Black Friday, saying that the day was when stores’ books went from red ink to black" — that is, from losses to profits — the New York Times reported.

Featured Fact-check

The photo in the post shows prisoners in neck chains in Western Australia, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp. News.

An author who used the photo on the cover of his book told AFP that it shows Aboriginal prisoners who were accused of killing cattle in Wyndham, Western Australia, and that it was originally published in February 1905.

The author also said that while researching the photo, he did not see any reference to the phrase Black Friday.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says Black Friday originated in 1904 when enslaved people were sold at a discount to boost the economy.

There is no evidence that Black Friday originated or is associated with the sale of enslaved people. Slavery was abolished in the U.S. in 1865.

The phrase "Black Friday" has been traced to a gold market crash in 1869 and to headaches caused by post-Thanksgiving shopping crowds in Philadelphia in the 1960s. The photo with the post is of Aboriginal prisoners in Australia who were accused of killing cattle, and was published in 1905.

We rate this claim False.


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Black Friday did not originate with the sale of enslaved people

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