Archibald John Motley Jr. Tongues (Holy Rollers) 1929

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 509 The David Geffen Wing

Motley, who had his first solo show in New York, in 1928, was primarily known for his exuberant scenes chronicling Bronzeville, a segregated Black neighborhood in his hometown of Chicago. In Tongues (Holy Rollers), purplish-brown curtains open to reveal a dramatically lit nighttime gathering at a Pentecostal church. The rapt central figure in white with outstretched arms could be a reference to Elder Lucy Smith, a famous Chicago faith healer. Pentecostal churches had become increasingly common in northern cities beginning in the late 1910s, when migrating Black southerners brought their worship practices with them.

Gallery label from 2022
Additional text

Many of Motley’s paintings, including Tongues (Holy Rollers), show groups of Black people gathered in different spaces. In this painting we see people swaying from side to side as they pray, sing, and spend time together. Look at how Motley painted different people in this scene. Notice their body language and facial expressions—how do you think they feel? Where in your community do you and your neighbors come together?

Kids label from 2022
Oil on canvas
29 1/4 × 36 1/8" (74.3 × 91.8 cm)
Bequest of Janice H. Levin (by exchange)
Object number
© Archibald John Motley Jr.. Courtesy of the Artist's Estate.
Painting and Sculpture

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].