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Beyond Black Friday: The 7 Black Days of the Week

We all know Black Friday, the discount-fueled shopping frenzy that follows Thanksgiving. But there are “Black” days for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, too. You probably wouldn’t want to wake up early to wait in line for any of these.

1. Black Sunday

On Sunday, April 14, 1935, a massive dust storm swept through the Great Plains, the largest of the decade. The day came to be known as “Black Sunday” because the huge cloud of topsoil, over 300,000 tons of it, was coal-black.

Dirt from the storm reached all the way to Washington, D.C. Witnesses said “The impact [was] like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face.” The so-called “black blizzard” even resulted in the press giving the area its famous nickname: The Dust Bowl.

Other Black Sundays: A large series of wildfires in Australia on Valentine’s Day, 1926 (and another in 1955); the disastrous opening day of Disneyland on July 17, 1955; and the death of Dale Earnhardt on February 18, 2001.

2. Black Monday

© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis

Monday, October 19, 1987, is known as Black Monday—the largest one-day percentage drop in stock market history. In a single day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a quarter of its value. Overall, the market lost $1 trillion.

As for why it happened, it’s essentially the same explanation we have for our recent economic woes: A lot of complicated market-speak, finger-pointing, and no clear answers. CNBC has collected several theories here.

Other Black Mondays: A hail storm that killed 1,000 British troops during the Hundred Years’ War on Easter Monday in 1360; the closure of Youngstown Sheet and Tube in Youngstown, Ohio on September 19, 1977, which left thousands unemployed; and the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and his advisor, Harvey Milk, on November 27, 1978.

3. Black Tuesday

While Black Monday may be the largest stock market crash in history, Black Tuesday is the most famous. On October 29, 1929, after two prior days of instability (referred to as Black Thursday and Black Monday, naturally), the stock market crashed completely, kicking off the Great Depression, the worst economic climate in American history.

In a matter of hours, the Dow Jones lost 23% of its value (just short of the nearly 25% lost in 1987) and a whole year’s worth of gains. Savings were wiped out overnight and $100 billion completely disappeared from the nation’s economy, which took a decade to recover.

Other Black Tuesdays: The November 22, 2011, South African protests against the “Protection of Information Bill”; the September 21, 1931, Estevan Riot in Saskatchewan, where three strikers were killed by RCMP officers; and the death of Fred Evans on November 12, 1912, the first worker killed during a strike in New Zealand’s history.

4. Black Wednesday

Bar image via Shutterstock

The day after Thanksgiving isn’t the only “Black” day in that week. Wednesday is becoming notorious too, albeit for a much sadder reason. Before college and high school students spend Thanksgiving weekend with their families, many spend the night out drinking with friends.

It’s come to be known as Black Wednesday among law enforcement agencies, reportedly because of students drinking until they black out. It’s been called the biggest day of the year for underage drinking.

Other Black Wednesdays: This year’s SOPA internet blackouts on Wednesday, January 18; and one of the worst days in air traffic history, September 15, 1954, when over 45,000 planes were delayed due to bad weather and overloaded air traffic control systems.

5. Black Thursday

There were many dark days during World War II, but none was worse for the USAAF (the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force) than Thursday, October 14, 1943, now known as Black Thursday.

Allied forces had become aware that the German army had a bottleneck in its production of military hardware. Ball bearings were in short supply and a large percentage were manufactured by factories located in the city of Schweinfurt. The Allies enacted a plan to bomb the factories, something they’d done previously just a few months before.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of bad weather and strong German anti-air support, the USAAF lost sixty planes and 600 crewmembers that day. It wound up being their worst loss in the entire war.

Other Black Thursdays: The failure of Jay Cooke and Company on September 18, 1873, which was one of the initiating events of the Panic of 1873; and the Black World Wide Web protest of February 8, 1996, where major websites turned their backgrounds black to protest the Communications Decency Act.

6. Black Friday

© Bob Campbell/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis

The House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, Congressmen tasked with uncovering communist sympathizers both inside and outside of the U.S. government, was once one of the most feared groups in America. Even the mere accusation of communist tendencies led to the immediate end of many careers in Hollywood.

By 1960, however, the group’s power had faded and the public had begun to find their tactics distasteful. This set the stage for the May 13, 1960, protest in San Francisco that became known as “Black Friday.” Students protesting the Subcommittee’s hearings were met with fire hoses and clubs, and 64 were arrested. Some also credit the protest with kicking off the idea of student activism, which would become a major fixture of the rest of the decade.

Other Black Fridays: The arrest of seven Anglican bishops for “seditious libel” by King James II on June 8, 1688; a hurricane near Eyemouth, Scotland on October 14, 1881, which killed nearly 200 fishermen; and the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. And of course today the term is used for the day after Thanksgiving, which was coined in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

7. Black Saturday

At the height of the Cold War, everyone looked like an enemy to the United States, and none was more threatening than the one just off-shore. For thirteen days in October of 1962, America and Russia (by way of its ally, Cuba) both had their fingers on the triggers of their nuclear arsenals.

Finally, on Black Saturday, October 27, things came to a head. Soviet forces in Cuba shot down a U-2 spy plane, leading both armies to begin preparing for war. Tensions on both sides flared, but hours later, with things still looking very grim, President Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Premier Nikita Khrushchev finally reached a diplomatic agreement to stop further escalations.

Other Black Saturdays: A very bad thunderstorm that coincided with the passing of the Articles of Perth in Scotland on August 4, 1621, which some at the time felt was very ominous; and the day of the worst fires in Yellowstone National Park history on August 20, 1988.

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A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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