Carthage residents were among those expected to attend Black History Month services in Joplin on Sunday.

Carthage residents were among those expected to attend Black History Month services in Joplin on Sunday.
The 3 p.m. services, put on by the NAACP Branch of Joplin, were held at Handy Chapel, 311 W. Fourth St.
George Triplett, a Carthage native and pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Joplin, said his wife, Edith, attended the services with others from his congregation, which is composed largely of Carthage residents.
The event featured praise dancing, scripture readings and talks honoring people who have played a big role in black history. Time was taken to recognize Handy Chapel as one of Joplin’s oldest African American churches.
Atrice Palmer said she was happy to attend. Palmer, 83, is the oldest attending member of the church. Although a family member of Palmer’s is older and still a member, he is no longer able to get around and attend.
Palmer’s three children have also attended church all their lives. They include Traci Palmer-Robertson, Erwin Palmer and Sheila Rogers, wife of Handy Chapel pastor Willie Rogers Jr.
Traci, who as a child in the late 1960’s was brought to Handy Chapel by her mother, said there are two aspects of the church that have changed over the last five decades. There is no longer a Sunday school and the size of the congregation has decreased to an average attendance of 15 to 20 at each 11 a.m. Sunday service.
“What I love about Handy Chapel is that it is a family thing,” said Traci, who is the church clerk and treasurer. “I grew up here and I am comfortable here.”
Handy Chapel was built in the middle 1800’s as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a wood building that stood on the same lot where it is today. A frame house just behind the church was used as the parsonage.
Joplin was struck by a tornado in 1902 that destroyed Handy Chapel and two other black churches, Trinity United Methodist and Unity Baptist.
Members were left homeless until a year later when Joplin’s first millionaire, Thomas Connor, paid $15,000 to have all three churches rebuilt. Connor is known for building the Connor Hotel at Fourth and Main streets.
Handy Chapel is the only one of the three that remains in its original structure at its original location. The church has obviously deteriorated over its long history and is in need of some renovation. Anyone wishing to donate money or labor toward that purpose should contact Traci Palmer-Robertson at (417) 483-2440.
“There is a lot of family history involved in Handy Chapel,” added Lisa Colbert, one of the organizers of the Black History Month celebration at the church on Sunday.
Black History Month has been celebrated in America every February for the last 41 years.
It is also known as National African American History Month and is an annual event that was officially recognized by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.
It celebrates achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in United States history.
Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
More information about the Handy Chapel services may be obtained by calling Lisa Colbert at (417) 317-3992 or Jim West at (417) 529-2891.