Teaching Students About the History of Black Friday

Black Friday is cited as the day when retailers move from operating at a loss (selling from the red) to making a profit (selling in the black) for the year. This nationwide phenomenon began in 1869 when two rivals sought to manipulate the gold market.

Many people know Black Friday as the day after Thanksgiving when consumers flood the stores in search of discounted products for their holiday shopping. However, few understand the history and the origin of Black Friday. Teachers can enlighten their students by teaching them about the history of Black Friday and how it came to be.

The history of Black Friday started in 1869 after a group of investors tried to corner the gold market. The investors, Jay Gould and James Fisk, schemed to prevent the government from selling gold at low prices to the public, hoping to drive the price up and sell it for massive profits. The plan failed, and the price of gold plummeted, causing the stock market to crash. Many people lost their fortunes. The day became known as Black Friday because of its dark and catastrophic nature.

Fortunately, the misfortune did not have to last forever. Retailers saw an opportunity to rebrand the day and turn it into something profitable, similar to the way corporations today attempt to turn weaknesses into brand strengths.

Philadelphia merchants, in particular, attempted to rebrand and domesticate the term “Black Friday” during the 1960s with a more positive spin. They argued that Black Friday denoted the day when retailers began to earn a profit and move from the red to the black on their balance sheets, which signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Besides the history, teaching students about the economics of the term “Black Friday” can provide valuable lessons. Students can learn about the importance of profit and loss in business activities. They can also learn about the market forces that drive supply and demand and the consequences of manipulation, especially on the stock market.

In conclusion, teaching students about the origins and history of Black Friday can help them understand the term’s true meaning and historical context. It can also provide important lessons about economics, profitability, and the consequences of manipulation in business. As educators, we should strive to create a comprehensive learning experience that prepares our students for the real world.

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