Why we couldn’t have erased a chalkboard in 1904

Lisa Riverohistorical fiction, Oscar's Gift Reading Guide, writing promptsLeave a Comment

Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide: Day 4

Why Tomas couldn’t erase a chalkboard in 1904

She also said that if Mama didn’t have five cents a week to spare, I could work a little after school each day to earn the money, erasing blackboards and cleaning the school building.” ~ Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux

Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C. c. 1899

Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C. c. 1899

When I changed the cover of Oscar’s Gift last month, I also made a handful of minor changes to the text, one of which was changing “chalk board” to “blackboard.”

To my ears, “chalk board” or “chalkboard” sounded like the older usage, but, in fact, “blackboard” was the term used until the middle of the 20th century:

“It was not until the 1960s that the slate blackboard began to give way to boards manufactured with steel boards coated with porcelain enamel. At that point, green colored boards began gaining popularity as they also allowed rooms to have a less stark appearance compared to the typical black color, and the erased chalk powder was less obvious on this green colored board. The use of the term ‘chalkboard’ gained increasing general popularity once black was no longer the only standard color.” “About Blackboards”

Writing Prompt: Take a look at “New Slang Words” for 1900 and write a conversation between two people at the turn of the 20th century.


Click HERE for the full Reading Guide.

Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

New Oscar Cover

Lisa RiveroWhy we couldn’t have erased a chalkboard in 1904

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