A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 06, 2017
“What is black when it is clean and white when it is dirty?"/"A blackboard.”

A popular school riddle is:

Q: What is black when it is clean and white when it is dirty?
A: A blackboard.


The riddle has been cited in print since at least 1939.


8 July 1939, Wilmington (DE) Morning News, “Riddles,” pg. 12, col. 7:
What is black when it is clean, and white when it is dirty?
== Margarette Cashman.
A blackboard.

26 April 1951, Marengo (IL) Republican-News, “District No. 8 School News,” pg. 13, col. 2:
What is black when it is clean and white when it is dirty?—the blackboard.
Dolores Aten

26 July 1952, Journal and Guide (Norfolk, VA), “Riddles,” pg. 16, col. 4:
What is black when it is clean and white when it is dirty?
Blackboard.

3 January 1958, Austin (TX) Statesman, “Fun Time—The Riddle Box” by A. Leokum, pg. 10, col. 5:
What is black when it’s clean and white when it dirty?
A blackboard.

Google Books
101 American English Riddles:
Understanding Language and Culture Through Humor

By Harry Collis
Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books
1996
Pg. 23:
What is black when it is clean and white when it is dirty?
A blackboard.

Google Books
Managing Text Messaging
By Shuchita Ghai
Elgin, IL: New Dawn Press
2005
Pg. 94:
Q: What is black when it is clean an Sc white when it is dirty.
A: A blackboard.

Google Books
Penguin Pocket Jokes
By David Pickering
London: Penguin Books UK
2006
Pg. ?:
What’s black when it’s clean and white when it’s dirty?
A blackboard.

Google Books
More One Liners, Jokes and Gags
Compiled by Grant Tucker
London: Biteback Publishing
2013
Pg. ?:
What is black when clean and white when dirty?
A blackboard.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Friday, January 06, 2017 • Permalink