Tag Archive | Harlem

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 22 – This is “Her” Life.

March 22 — If a famous director wanted to make a movie about one of your female ancestors who would it be? What actress would you cast in the role and why?

If  a famous director wanted to make a movie of one of my ancestor’s it would be about the Cully family and it would be centered around my grandmother Agnes and my mother Betty residing in Sugar Hill.  The many lives of the other family members would be weaved through the life of Agnes.  There would be many scenes portrayed in her sewing room in her apartment where many stories were told.  The main years of the movie would be 1923-1952.

I would like to see Cicely Tyson play my grandmother as she is a star actress, and Angela Bassett  would play my mother because of her elegance.  My mother was very elegant.  The name would either be “The Socialite” or “Sugar”

Marian Anderson and her Fashion Designer Agnes Cully Peters

Harlem-Sugar Hill, New York Family Research Trip

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.

Document Day: Elvin Wesley Brown, World War I & World War II Registration Cards

     Elvin Wesley Brown was the husband of my Great Aunt Hannah Sidney Cully.  After Aunt Hannah died of breast cancer in November 25, 1932, Elvin moved in with my grandmother Agnes Cully Peters and my mother Betty.  Elvin was known as “Unkie” to all those that knew him well.  He was an excellent gourmet cook and always had to try out the latest cooking supplies.  Elvin was also a Barber by trade.
     Hannah was one of the elder Cully siblings along with her sister Zara [Cully] Brown.  They both married Brown brothers.
World War I Registration Card
Ancestry.com

     Elvin was born on July 29 1884 in Duval County, Jacksonville Florida.  This WWI Registration Card was completed on September 12, 1918 in Worcester, MA, and Elvin was 34 at the time.  Hannah and Elvin were married and lived at 4 Pelham Street, which was one of the well talked about addresses that the Cully family resided of which I visited in April 2011.

  Elvin was employed as a Barber at 4 Pleasant Street, Worcester MA at this time, and his employer was Parteur J. N. Harmon.

     Elvin had a medium built, and was of medium height.  He also had Brown hair and black eyes.

Pelham Street where the Cully’s resided
Worcester, MA Family Research Trip
Photo from my Cell Phone Camera

    Elvin Wesley Brown was living in New York when he completed the World War II Registration Card in April of 1942.  He was living at 460 W. 147th Street, NY, NY, where my Mother and Grandmother resided.  (When I went to NY, I had the opportunity to tour the building and also went inside the actual apt my mother lived in.  I did not take pictures of the inside apt. as for the tenants privacy)

     Elvin was documented as being 5’6″ and 163 lbs.  He was Negro, with Brown eyes, black hair and a light brown complexion.  He was also 57 years at the time.

WW-II Registration Card (Side #1)
Ancestry.com

World World II-Registration Card (Side #2)
Ancestry.com

 

Me outside of the Apt Building @ 460 W. 147th Street
Waiting to be buzzed in.
Harlem, NY Family Research Trip
Photo by Vanessa Moore

Young Love: Walker Bacon & Betty Peters

     Walker Bacon and my mother Betty Peters at 2.5 years old.  They grew up together on Sugar Hill in New York and shared the same birthday, November 17, 1926.  Walker became a Dentist and Betty a school teacher.  My mother told me they were best friends to about age “7.”

     I found a picture of Walker and his bride June in their wedding photo that was taken in the early 1950’s.  The gown was made by my grandmother Agnes Peters.

     I am currently trying to locate Walker Bacon.  Had some success locating an address and an email.  Wrote a letter, but have not heard anything as of yet.

Those Places Thursday: The Hotel Theresa

Old PC bought through e-bay.

I heard my mother talk about Hotel Theresa located in Harlem when I was growing up, as she shared with me that this was one of the hotels that was segregated until the 1940’s.  It was one of those Swanky places.  Between 1913-1940, the hotel would only accept White guests.  In the 1940’s, it was opened to many of the well known African Americans such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, etc.

My mother told me that in the 1950’s her mother held some of her fashion shows in the hotel.  I yet to find the documentation, as I have found articles of her shows in other locations around Harlem.

This Hotel is also famous for housing Fidel Castro and his entourage during the opening session of the United Nations in 1960, as other Hotels would not accept his money.  Fidel Castro and Malcolm X met and had conversation at the Hotel Theresa.

Current Day picture dated December 18, 2010.

When I visited Harlem in December 2010, I took this picture of the historically designated city landmark building on the Corner of 125th Street & Adam Clayton Powell.  The building was converted into office spaces in 1971, and is now called, “Theresa Towers.”  This building has a rich history…and I can just hear the walls speak….This building is majestic as it stands against the sky.

Amanuensis Monday: Newspaper Articles Agnes Cully Peters (My Grandmother)

My Grandmother Agnes Cully Peters was a Fashion Designer in Harlem, New York. I grew up knowing this fact about my Grandmother, that she sewed for Marian Anderson and other well known performers, but the only hard evidence that I had was my Mother’s stories, and a couple of pictures.

When I went on my Family History Research Trip to Harlem, one of the first places I went was the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I immediately went searching for any and all articles on my family and their very close friends.  I had great success!  Below are a few articles of documentation.

New York Amsterdam News, Nov. 18, 1939
[Transcribed]
Marian Anderson’s Modiste
MARIAN ANDERSON, America’s Number 1 contralto, has engaged
Mrs. Agnes Cully Peters, Modiste, of 460 West 147th Street, to
design an make her clothes for a year.  For a long time the singer has
had many of the European experts to attend to that important detail
for her and they certainly have done an excellent job.  However, since
she could not go abroad this season, Miss Anderson has decide to 
give that job to one of her own race-and she should be commended
for doing so.

(Modiste, a maker of fashionable clothing and accessories, with the implication that the articles made reflect the current Paris fashions.)

The article above stated that Agnes would design Marian’s clothes for a year, but she did many years after, and through the 1950’s.  Below is another article dated in 1949.

 [Transcribed]
MARIAN ANDERSON, best dressed women, is proud no end of the talents of Agnes Cully Peters who designs all of her street clothes. She considers Agnes a blessing to keep her in style since she has so little time for shopping. Miss Anderson will be a guest of honor when Agnes stages her “New Look” fashion show at the Club Sudan on the 23rd……

New York PS-186 -An Abandoned School in Harlem

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

http://mjsoulpictures.blogspot.com/search/label/Faith%20Ringgold%20

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.

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