African American Studies
Nicholas Martin is the principle of P.S. 6 and grew up in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. He was born in Manhattan and when he was 5 his parents moved to Fox Street in the South Bronx. His father worked on the docks. His father spoke broken English and fluent Spanish and was born in Florida. He traveled back and forth from Cuba though. His mother spoke English and Spanish fluently and was born in Puerto Rico.
He remembers Fox Street when he was growing up as lively. Children would play lots of games outside on the street. It was also a very diverse neighborhood. He attended grade school as P.S 62, right on Fox Street. He was very influenced by his music teacher in middle school. He attended Central Commercial High School.
There was a lot of Afro-Cuban music in his house. His parents never took him to see live performances but he would go to clubs and dance halls with his friends.
He remembers narcotics coming to his neighborhood when he was 12. He observed the devastating effect it had on his neighborhood. One could sit on the steps and watch people carrying stolen goods down the street. He also said that the law enforcement was ineffective. He lost a lot of his friends due to their drug involvement and because of that has very few friends still in his life from when he was younger. Another reason he sites for the change in the community, is the moral fiber of the people living in the Bronx changed and they had less respect for government agencies. He also blames television programs and the lessening role of religion in people’s lives.
During his first year of teaching he became a police officer working in Harlem when gang violence was escalating. However, he was quickly taken from working on the streets to behind the scenes for the inspector. He eventually left the police department and started teaching in Harlem. Working for the inspector while simultaneously working in Harlem exposed him to all levels of social hierarchy, and this is what helped him the most when he began teaching.
He moved out of the Bronx in 1963. However, he was deployed while working in the police department to his old neighborhood when there were fires there, and he was deployed to the Bronx during the 1977 blackout.
One of the major problems he sees in the schools today is the lack of moral fiber and respect for things. One way of instilling this value into children is by talking to them about the opportunities they have and that shouldn’t be wasted. He had a strong family environment and he credits this for all the success he has had. The lack of this family environment and moral fiber in today’s world is why the youth is so disrespectful in his eyes
Nicholas Martin, Interview with the Bronx African American History Project, BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Martin, Nicholas.mp3 (69589 kB)