African American Studies


William and Margery Nicholas are a husband and wife who are also longtime Bronx residents. As such, they stand as examples of the many families that make up the Bronx African American population. The Nicholas’ come from different backgrounds (as William was a Negro League baseball player and Margery became a teacher). Despite their different life experiences, however, they have enjoyed over 62 years of marriage.

William Nicholas played baseball variants such as stoop ball and stick ball. However, he was also a member of organized teams, such as those sponsored by his schools, PS 51 and Textile High School; in addition, William competed on a sandlot team known as the New York Crestons. During this time, he became a three-pitch pitcher, developing an effective fastball, curveball, and sinker ball. William signed a professional contract in 1933 with a barnstorming Negro League team known as the New York Black Yankees. Although William played against noted Negro Leaguers like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, he was constrained by racial barriers from ever playing in the major leagues. As a result, William’s pay topped out at around $100, and he was forced to give up the game.

Margery Nicholas attended both Hunter High School and Hunter College. After graduating, she began her teaching career as a substitute at PS 10. As an educator, she spoke of several trends that she noticed amongst her students. For example, she stated that parents were more willing to ensure that their children met high standards, but less willing or less able to participate in PTA meetings. She also said that foreign-born students were more dedicated to learning than American-born students. Margery also felt that the schools she worked in were consistent with she expected out of students.

William and Margery were married in 1943, and had a son in 1946. During their years of marriage, they lived in an apartment on 1105 Tinton Avenue (a building which Arthur Crier also occupied) before eventually moving to Rockville Center, Long Island. The two met at Saint Augustine’s Church, which served as an important location in their social lives. Overall, the experience of the Nicholas family exemplifies that which many American families over all races have faced over the years in establishing a daily life and a daily routine. Understanding this story, therefore, highlights that history is more than just the lives of those in power, but also the lives of those average families that make up the majority of the population.

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Nicholas, William and Margery.mp3 (91246 kB)