Tag Archive | Sugar Hill

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.

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.

Family Friends Friday: Muriel V Arrington & Betty Mae Peters

It is so true that Genealogy is the Study of our own ancestry…but our families are not on an Island all their own.  Family Friends Friday is a prompt that I will use so I can incorporate other individuals that interacted with my family and had major impacts in my Ancestors, and family’s life.  This is where many of the stories come from as we all know some friends are closer than family.

Muriel V. Arrington & Betty M. Peters with their dates

Before I went on my trip to Sugar Hill, New York City, I contacted some of my mother’s friends that grew up with her.  I wanted to get a full picture of my mother, and how New York was when she was growing up.

I wrote Muriel Ferguson, one of my mother’s closest New York friends to see what type of response I would receive.  Included with the letter, I added a questionnaire. (not included in this post).


September 7, 2009

Mrs. Muriel Ferguson

It was a pleasure speaking with you the other day about my mother Betty Mae Peters and the few things you shared with me about the two of you growing up in New York.

I had been thinking about you over the years as my mother told me that you were one of her dear friends from her childhood.  She shared with me the photo of the two of you with your dates.  Wow! What a wonderful picture.

As you should already know, my mother enjoyed writing and she shared with me years before she passed that one day she would take the time out to write her memoirs. She left me with some notes, journals and some things that she wrote down on paper, but she never completed her story.

As her daughter, I am researching and interviewing individuals so I may add to her story as I would like to write her book.  I am hoping that you might be able to help me by sharing with me stories of your life with my mother growing up in Manhattan.  Anything that you might have to share would help tremendously.  I have included some questions that might spark some stories.  You can answer some of these or tell me whatever you like.  I appreciate all that you can do to help.

I would love to come visit you, but will have to plan it for after the New Year.  I promised you my contact information, so here it is:

Yvette Porter Moore
xxxx xxxxx xxxx
xxxx  xxxx xxxx

With much Love,

Yvette Porter Moore

Muriel V. Arrington
1945 George Washington H.S. Year Book

[Muriel’s Response]
 Page #1

Dear Yvette,


The three of us, Betty, Joyce and I were like sisters.  That phase of our lives was happy.

I don’t know why Betty did not mention our third friend (it may have been due to something later in life that occurred.  I know that Aunt Edna and Joyce went to visit Betty and Aunt Agnes in California probably in the 70’s and there was some problem??)

Anyway-to continue-
Did your mom ever mention her elementary school?  I went to Public School (PS) 186 on 145th St. between Amsterdam and Broadway.  It was an old school and may have been torn down by now.

Public School 186
Photo by Vanessa Moore

We three all lived in 460 West 147th St. (3 blocks from PS 186) an old apartment building, once inhabited by whites.  The apartments all had one room with tiny wash room sinks, toilet for a live-in servant!

The entrance to the building was brick paved and led to about 3 steps to a wrought iron and glass doors, when we lived there, there was an elevator man waiting to take you up to the floors.  Around the elevator on each side were marble steps leading up or down.

Apt at 460 West 147th Street
Photo by Vanessa Moore

Betty and Aunt Agnes and “Uncie” lived on…

[Page 2]
…either the 5th or sixth floors.  I don’t remember the apt number. You entered a front door that went down a long hall.  The apartment had several rooms, maybe 6.  The living room and dining room was separated by French doors (or maybe it was pocket doors) was full of fabric and a dress form and spools of thread, scraps, ironing board + iron.  Aunt Agnes was a magnificent seamstress.  Nothing she made looked “Mammy Made”.

In fact when I went away to Howard University in 1945, she made me 2 beautiful suits, which I wore one, a light pearl grey wool suit when I got married in 194_/.  PS. Uncie had been a problem?

Joyce and Aunt Edna (also a seamstress for a designer house) lived on the 3rd or 4th floor of the building.

My mother and I lived on the second floor with my aunt and uncle-They were seldom home (They worked “in service” and my mother took care of me and my aunts 2 children).

Getting back to Betty’s and our activities-We three were the 3 Musketeers.  I believe Betty was 8-I was 7 & Joyce 6? (let me know how old Betty was and then we will know the correct ages.)

[Page 3]
We bought small dolls at Woolworth and Aunt Agnes would always give us scraps of used materials to make dresses (No pants then!) for our dolls and we would set on the steps of the building and sew our creations.

As we grew a little older we created our own language (on the order of pig latin). Each of our parents would get annoyed because we wouldn’t and they couldn’t tell what we were saying.

Some Saturdays my Mother (Aunt Tillie) would take us to the movies close by on Broadway to see cowboy pictures etc.

We three played 24-7.  We were happy together.

When I was about 12 years old, yes, after I graduated from elementary school in 1939, My mother and I moved to 153rd St.  7 blocks North of 147th St.  I went to Edward W. Stitt Junior H.S.  My memory quits there-Where was Betty?  I do know that sometime later she and Aunt Agnes moved to California to be near Aunt Zara.

Stitt Junior High School
Photo by Yvette Porter Moore

You asked about George Washington HS.  I went there in the Ninth grade & graduated in 1945, then to Howard-Betty and I always kept in touch but we were far apart.

[Page 4]

Joyce and I remained close, she moved into the same brownstone house (153 st.) Owned by a policeman, when her mother met and married him he and his children/grown, Joyce and Aunt Edna all lived on the lower 3 floors.  My mother and I lived on the top floor.  Joyce had twin boys November of 1953 and I had my twins (identical) in January 1954.  Your mom, My Betty, still kept in touch with us.

In 1972, I married Richard Ferguson, my 3rd marriage, and in 1984.  We moved into our own home in Englewood, New Jersey.

I have forgotten the year, but in the 1980’s the phone rang, I answered and it was Betty and Walter Porter! I was having a Birthday Party for Richard in the backyard, Betty and Walter joined us and I spent most of my time with my dear friend.

When we moved to our 1st home in Virginia, I spoke to her regularly and I was with her by phone up to the end.  I have been blessed with so many friend through the years and Betty was at the top of the list. (over)*

Betty always spoke of you and your brother.  You filled her life with joy.

Yvette if I think of anymore, I will call or write you.

Don’t forget to let me know Betty’s birthday year.  I know it was 11/17/?  Our phone is xxx-xxx-xxxx.  I have your number and I promise I will call.

Lets continue what your mom did 🙂

Love “Aunt” Muriel

PS. Let me know about your brother

(Since this letter we have spoken on a few occasions, while I have pen and paper in hand.  Her memory is not what it used to be as she is 82 years now.  My mother did attend Stitt Jr. High and she graduated the same year Muriel graduated from H.S. in 1945.  While Muriel went to Howard U., My mother attended NYU.)

© Yvette Porter Moore-All Rights Reserved

Daily Journal: Cully Family Genealogy

Edgecombe, Sugar Hill, NY APT building Grandparents lived  in 1920’s

Today took a very interesting and a welcoming change in my Research, Writing, and Blogging.

I have finally realized I cannot do another thing until I organize my years of printing and saving documents.

Over the next few months, I am going to be organizing, sorting, scanning, filing, all of my Family Research information.  I have been researching the Cully Family since 2004 electronically and have not done the documentation required to keep up with the material or at least share it with individuals such as Debra Newton-Carter and Michaud Robinson who have interest in my papers as we both have family connections.

I have been doing Family  Search and Research in general since I was 18 years old in 1986.  I did not know there was a name for it until the year 2000. 

Since I have been researching the Cully Family, my Goal is to write two books within the next few years.  They are: The Cully Family: An African American Story and Embraced Identity.

I want to personally thank Debra Newton-Carter of In Black and White: Cross-Cultural Genealogy.  She has agreed to help with some of the documents and put them in some type of order so that I may focus more on my writing.

© Yvette Porter Moore-All Rights Reserved

Historical Research Trip To Sugar Hill, Harlem, New York

 Life on Sugar Hill
I am writing my mother’s memoirs of “Sugar Hill” New York between 1926 and 1950. It is a story written from a daughter’s perspective.
Betty Peters-1929 Photo by D’Laigle

Currently I am researching the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, and will raise-the-bar of my research by visiting New York this June 2010.  My daughter Vanessa will go with me, as she is my official photographer and will document our footprints.  We will be staying in a local Bed & Breakfast which is located two blocks from the actual Apartments my mother lived. This will allow me to walk the streets my mother walked and breathe in the culture of Harlem that my mother knew so well.

Betty Mae Peters, 16 yrs old

When I was a little girl, my mother recorded her life stories of New York and the background of her family history on tape.  She would tell me that she was writing a book, but never got around to finishing her project. This is why I feel the strong need to finish her book, even though there is so much that has been taken with her in death.  For this very reason, we should never put off what we can do today.

My mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter was born in New York City on November 17, 1926 to Agnes Cully and Charles I. Peters. She was an only child. Betty grew up in the “Sugar Hill” area of New York City where she attended George Washington High School.  Always an organizer and socialite, Betty and her life time friend, Marilyn “Mickey” Sullivan formed and belonged to a club during their childhood called the “149 Street Queens.”
Her mother, Agnes, was a well known seamstress and fashion designer. Her clients included Marian Anderson, Betty Davis, Barbara Rush, Joan Crawford and other celebrities. Betty often modeled in her mother’s fashion show in New York City.
Marian Anderson and My Grandmother Agnes Cully Peters.  My Grandmother was her personal fashion designer
Betty was always an excellent student. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism from New York University in 1947. Her skills and clever talents in writing were evident in her unique holiday letters received by friends and relatives. Betty and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where her Aunt Zara Cully Brown was an actress, also known as “Mother Jefferson” in the television sitcom “The Jefferson’s” (staring Sherman Hensley, and Isabelle Sanford.)
My Great Aunt Zara Cully Brown

While in Los Angeles, Betty received her CA teaching credential from Los Angeles State College, and attended Pepperdine University, where she received her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education. Betty became very popular and active in the social and political circles of the Los Angeles Community. Betty taught at Rosewood Elementary School and later founded the Friendship Guild where she was president. This was an elite organization of women who remained as Betty’s dearest friends throughout her life.

In 1957, Betty met and married the late Dr. Walter J. Porter. They moved to San Diego, CA in 1969, and became very active in the field of education, musical and civic affairs. They also became the proud parents of two loving children. Betty taught classes for the Gifted and Talented Students at the elementary school level in San Diego City Schools for many years, retiring in 1992. She was an avid reader, and an excellent cook. A “gathering” at the Porter household was always a special treat. She was very supportive of “Wally’s” numerous activities as she shared forty-four memorable years with him until hes death in 2001. She also enjoyed spending time with her seven grandchildren.
Betty was a member of the San Diego -Tema Sister City Society, the African Arts Committee, The Chapel of Awareness in Encinitas and was an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Silver Star, (Epsilon Xi Omega Chapter). Betty was a breast cancer survivor who tried to impress on others the importance of yearly exams. She suffered a massive stroke on Christmas Eve, which took her life.

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

P.S. 186–Historical Educational Site in Harlem: What Will Be It’s Fate?

PS 186 in it’s Hey Days.
As I have searched for historical information online regarding P.S. 186, A Harlem NY Elementary School of which my late mother Betty Peters attended between the years of 1932-1938, I have been pleasantly surprised to find any mention of the school, as I have googled P.S. 186 on a couple of previous occasions with no success.

Very recently, I discovered that P.S. 186 had been abandoned for over 30 years, and that currently a local movement has been ensued to save the structural building from demolition and deem it as a historical building as it has been around for over 107 years.

I had written one of my mother’s dear friends Muriel Ferguson requesting information on Sugar Hill and things that she could share with me about my mother between the years of 1926-1950. In Muriel’s letter, she questioned if my mother ever mentioned P.S. 186. She also stated that the school probably had been demolished by now, since the school had been closed for many years.

As I continued looking for answers regarding the fate of P.S. 186, I came across Nathan Kensinger, A Professional Photographer, who documents a world that the average eye does not have the opportunity to penetrate. He enters buildings that have not seen the light of day, and have been ultimatley abandoned, while being a victim to the elements. These buildings, and outside structures that Kensinger captures with his lense, possess very distinct architecture characteristics. Nathan gives us the vision to see how these buildings and structures were used in their heyday, and what they could be if they were revitalized. For a clearer picture of P.S. 186 and Kensinger’s other photographs of art go to:

As I continued researching online, I came across Dr. Faith (Jones) Ringgold, who is a world renowned quilter, who was raised in Sugar Hill. I discovered that she attended P.S. 186, and thought to myself that if she attended this school, that there must be other well-known individuals that attended this school and should give credence to the historical value of the school building and the importance of saving such a structure. Dr. Ringgold’s 6th grade graduation picture is posted on her blog @ http://mjsoulpictures.blogspot.com/2009/08/faiths-6th-grade-graduation-in-1942.html.
Betty Mae Peters graduating class of 1938 at PS 186
Top 2nd Row, 5th person on left

Other’s that might have attended this school are: Harry Belafonte and Alan Greenspan. There are many well known individuals that lived in Sugar Hill, that the likelihood of other mover & Shakers being developed from this area and attending PS 186 is quite possible. I believe that we should make an effort to save the school by notifying NY local politicians, and pleading with those that have the ultimate decision on retaining the historical value of the neighborhood.

There was a petition to Save PS 186 that was posted online, of which 300 people signed, closed as of March 2010.
Uptownflavor has posted details of PS 186 and if you would like updated information on the progress of the petition and decision of the building to link to:

Update:  I had the opportunity to travel to Harlem and see firsthand the condition of PS-186.  The buildings architect was amazing…To see post click here. 

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011