Whites Chapel AME

Haralson County
Org 1907
Photography by Andy Sarge

Almost Gone But Not Forgotten

Whites Chapel AME, located on the edge of Tallapoosa in Haralson County, is another sad example of a once vibrant church that has been abandoned for many years before she finally collapsed in June of 2021 when the roof gave way.  This happened as a result of the tragic toll that time took on the structure, and fire damage that caught the surrounding kudzu on fire. Coupled with the fact that it didn’t have a tin roof, the church didn’t have a chance to survive.

We have very little history available, other than the fact that she was built in 1907 and ceased having services in the 1980s.  If any more history surfaces, we will add to it.  We are told that most, if not all of its members are now deceased.  Since there is no associated graveyard, the church will soon be totally gone.  We are determined to capture as many of these grand old structures while we still can.

Whites Chapel is a symbol of some of the sweeping post-Civil War changes that affected Georgia, the south, and the rest of the nation.  After emancipation, these formally enslaved people began to form their own churches which quickly became the social and spiritual center of their lives. Most of these freed slaves were located in rural Georgia where they had been engaged in the production of King Cotton.  The little church you see above was the result of a migration from small farms to emerging towns like Tallapoosa. Because of the railroad, built in the late 1800s, and easy access to the Tallapoosa River, the town was an ideal place for cotton manufacturing. Later as cotton declined and America rose to prominence as an industrial power, larger cities emerged as the engines of commerce.  This was particularly true of the “great migration” of African Americans to larger northern cities in search of a better life. Whites Chapel tells this sad story well.

The AME (African Methodist Episcopal) denomination grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which was established in Philadelphia in 1787.  It was formally organized in the early 1800s as a new Wesleyan denomination. Growth was limited to the Northeast and Midwest prior to the Civil War, however, after the war, a concerted effort was made to establish AME churches in the south and even internationally.  AME membership reached 400,000 by 1880 as a result of this effort.  Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has membership in twenty Episcopal Districts in thirty-nine countries on five continents. 

Whites Chapel was an amazing architectural reminder of where we came from and how we got here.  She was a loving home to generations of African Americans who were part of these changes….where we came from and how we got here.  We are sad to see her go.

Click on the gallery photos below for further commentary.


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