This is the first trip I took to dig a little deeper into the life of my mother and her parents. The trip was life-changing for me. Here is a slide show presentation that I did for research group, “The African American Genealogical Research Group.” It is very long, but I hope you enjoy it.
My mother Betty Mae “Peters” Porter loved to cook! She considered herself a gourmet cook, and many of her friends thought so too. She became known as the “Soup Girl.” She loved to entertain, and in her own words she would say, “Cooking helps me to unwind after a long day at work.”
One of my mother’s specialties was File’ Gumbo, but I do not have the recipe in reach, but knew exactly where her New Orleans Shrimp Gumbo recipe was. My mother who’s family was from New England did not make Gumbo, but about 50 years ago my mom’s friend Yvonne Greene from New Orleans taught her how to make it. We would have Gumbo for special occasions such as Christmas or even Thanksgiving. There would be a large pot cooking on the stove to feed about 40 to 50 guests. The recipe below will serve six adults. I hope you enjoy!
© Yvette Porter Moore-All Rights Reserved
I have known for the past six years the name of my 3G-Grandfather, but really knew nothing about him. With today’s technologies, I have been able to trace my pedigree of the Cully family back to the 1800’s, which is usually difficult when you are searching for someone that is a “Person of Color” before the Antebellum Period.
I discovered that my family on the Cully line were a “free people of color” in the early 1800’s, as my 4G-Grandfather, William Cully, Sr. had been bonded to William Dove of New Bern, Craven County, NC as an apprentice in the trade of a Cooper. (I have reason to believe that the Cully’s were related to the Dove’s in the 1800’s, but I have not found any proof, except in later generations the Dove’s married into the Cully line.” The link below will show proof of William Cully and his brother James Cully being bonded at a very young age.
Below is the 1850 Census of my 3G-Grandfather’s family. In this census William Cully, 17, son of William Cully, is who I began focusing on so I could put some skin on his bones.
1860 United States Federal Census about William Culley
1870 United States Federal Census about William Culley
The Census of 1880 shows my Great Grand father Ambrose Cully along with Williams wife Nancy and their other children.
1880 United States Federal Census about William Culley
After 1880, I was not able to find information on my 2G Grandfather as very few US Census reports of 1890 did not survive a devastating fire.
So after more investigation I discovered on the New Bern, NC Public Library website at The Kellenberger Room, there were listings of Obituaries. William H Cully was listed and so I ordered his obit. With this piece of evidence of William H. Cully’s life, I was able to pinpoint his actual date of birth and his date of death and learn a little more about what type of individual he was.
This was my treasure Chest item, which now will lead me to land deeds.
© Yvette Porter Moore-All Rights Reserved
|Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore walking up to PS-186|
On my list of places to go during my research trip to Harlem, was to visit the old abandoned school that my mother attended in 1933-1938. PS-186 which is located at 523 West 145th Street and Amsterdam Avenue had been opened in 1903 and shut down in 1975.
Prior research of PS-186 led me to a blog written by Michele Wallace, the daughter of Faith Jones Ringgold, a world renowned quilter, and artist. Michele had posted a class picture of her mother from PS-186, and when I saw it, I thought it resembled my mother’s graduating 6th grade class picture. At that point I contacted Michele to get permission to mention her blog and the picture that she posted as I immediately felt a connection to her and her mother. Through further investigation, I discovered that Michele’s grandmother Willi Posey was a fashion designer in Harlem just like my grandmother, so I immediately needed and wanted to know more about this intriguing family whose paths crossed my family’s life. (Blog below)
|Faith Ringgold at PS-186-Graduating Class of 1942|
So in June of 2010, my daughter Vanessa and I, flew to New York for the first time. I wanted to walk in the footsteps of my late mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter, and to discover the life she had lived before coming to Los Angeles and then eventually settling in San Diego, CA. My mother did not talk much about her Beloved, Sugar Hill, New York, at least not to me, but there were times that I overheard her speaking about Sugar Hill to her friends, and my father. My end purpose for researching my mother is to put together the pieces of my mother’s memoir that she had intended to write, as she left tape recordings and some journals of which I have inherited.
Photos by Vanessa Moore
|Front of PS-186|
|Wonderful detail and architecture of PS-186|
Michele and I enjoyed the day looking at the old PS-186 and wondered what would become of such a wonderful structure that had become an eye-sore of the community, but yet and still there appears to be some hope to revitalize the building and making it grand as it was in its’ earlier days.
|On the Backside of PS-186|
|Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore in thought about PS-186|
|Bulletin Board can be seen through missing window|
|PS-186 view of broken out window|
|Walking on 145th Street past PS 186|
It is my hope that the local historians of Harlem take on the task of writing the history of the people that attended PS-186, as it is my understanding, that many great individuals were educated at this school such as Harry Belafonte, Faith Jones Ringgold, Arthur Mitchell, and many others. This information might shine some light upon the abandoned school and push the powers to finally do something about this building instead of waiting until they can demolish it and put high rise apartments in its place.
It was always my intention to blog the updates of my family research trips as I was searching and discovering the missing pieces of my family history. However, as life happens and I got so busy doing other things, I allowed my focus to be side-tracked away from my goals of sharing, so “blogging” had been put on hold.
Alas….I still get another chance to share with you what I have done, and I am so excited to do so…..
A prior post from April 2010, I talked about the historical significance of “THE TOWN HALL.” During my first visit to Harlem, NY, I had the opportunity to visit The Town Hall, while my daughter documented our trip through photography.
|The Town Hall Photo by Vanessa Moore|
“The Town Hall has played a central role in the cultural history of New York City since January 1921, when architects McKim, Mead & White completed the building for a suffragist organization called The League for Political Education. Built to serve as and educational forum for the discussion of important civic issues. The People’s Hall revealed its extraordinary acoustics on Feb 12, 1921, during a recital by Spanish violinist Joan Manen. (taken from Town Hall 88th Anniversary program)
The Town Hall has deep history for its musical performances by many greats such as Marian Anderson who made her New York Town Hall Debut on December 20, 1935, after being denied a chance to perform at other venues because of her race. Others that have performed on the stage were, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Ellen DeGeneres, and many many more.”
The Town Hall also is know for its school programs which allows elementary school children to perform on stage to debut a recital for the people of New York.
This is what brought me to the Town Hall, as my mother Betty Mae Peters performed on this very stage as an elementary school student in her first recital in 1932.
I had the opportunity to tour the interior of the Town Hall, which at the time was closed. When I entered the building a gentleman by the name of George, who was the elevator operator, greeted me. I shared with him that my mother as a little girl in the 30’s performed at the Town Hall and I wanted more information on the establishment. He had me follow him into the elevator, which was the original and required an operator. He took me to the top floor into the administrative office and told me the President was there and he would have the necessary answers.
When I walked in, the first office I came to was the President’s, and his door was wide open. He was a big man, and was the whitest man I had ever seen…and he was not an albino. He looked up from his desk without smiling and in a very irritated voice asked what I wanted. I told him that he looked very busy, and I was sorry for disturbing him, but I had traveled all the way from San Diego, California and wanted to know more about The Town Hall and to take some pictures for my documentation. He told me he was too busy, but when I told him it was very important to me and why I needed the information, he allowed his assistant to tour me around.
The young lady explained to me that this was very unusual for him to allow her to show me around as he usually does not do that. She let me know I should take whatever pictures I could get as this is a rare occurrence. When we completed the tour, she had me go back to her office so she could give me a historical write-up of The Town Hall.
When my visit was over, the Elevator Operator gave me a wealth of information of the Town Hall and told me if I came back another day, he would have more for me. I did not get the opportunity to go back as my time in NY was short.
George shared with me that his father had worked at The Town Hall when he immigrated to the U.S. He came from a line of well known performers from Russia. His father worked at the Town Hall in the 40’s and 50’s and wanted his son to come and work there, but George didn’t until ten years ago.
|George, Elevator Operator|
The two hours spent at The Town Hall was amazing and it was time well-spent. Next time I go back, I intend on attending a performance as they still hold shows today.