Gertrude Morgan

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Sister Gertrude Morgan
Born Gertrude Morgan
(1900-04-07)April 7, 1900[1]
LaFayette, Alabama
United States
Died July 8, 1980(1980-07-08) (aged 80)[2]
New Orleans, Louisiana
United States
Resting place Providence Memorial Park
Jefferson Parish
29°58′37″N 90°13′40″W / 29.976871°N 90.227854°W / 29.976871; -90.227854
Style Outsider art
Spouse(s) Will Morgan (1928-?)

Sister Gertrude Morgan (April 7, 1900 – July 8, 1980) was a preacher, missionary, artist, musician, and poet who worked in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s, notable primarily for her folk art.[3]

Early life[edit]

Sister Morgan was born in Lafayette, Alabama to mother Frances "Fannie" Williams[4] and father Edward Williams.[2] She was the seventh child of a poor farm family.[2][3]

Sister Morgan left school before completing the third grade and later worked as a servant and nursemaid.[3] Her family moved to Columbus, Georgia when she was eighteen.[5]


Religious work[edit]

Sister Morgan was married to Will Morgan in 1928, but at the age of 38 thought she heard a voice from God telling her to become a street evangelist. She left her family and husband to move to New Orleans,[5] where she organized an orphanage with two other missionaries.

She believed God told her to begin painting in 1956, and in 1957 thought she heard a voice telling her that she was the Bride of Christ. Thus she adopted a white habit and moved out of the orphanage to establish "The Everlasting Gospel Mission" in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Around 1960, art dealer Larry Borenstein invited her to set up a performance and showing in his art gallery after coming upon her shouting on a street corner with a paper megaphone.[6]


Music was one of the tools of Sister Morgan's ministry. In the early 1970s, Let's Make A Record was recorded in order to capture Morgan singing and playing her tambourine. In 2004 the original album was re-released on the Preservation Hall Recordings label.

In 2005, the Ropeadope label released King Britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan, which took the a cappella/tambourine recordings of Let's Make A Record and added contemporary beat programming and instrumentation. The album received rave reviews[7] and created a new, young audience for Sister Gertrude Morgan. The album artwork featured her paintings.


Sister Morgan painted in order to create visual aids for her preaching, and her paintings use a colorful religious iconography. Some of her favorite subjects are the Book of Revelation and her and Jesus flying in an airplane, this last accompanied by the poem "Jesus is my air Plane." She painted on whatever was at hand, including styrofoam trays, window shades and even toilet paper rolls.

In 2004 and 2005, there was a comprehensive collection of her art that toured the country, first at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, then the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Her art brought her fame and notoriety, and in 1974 she announced that the Lord had ordered her to cease painting in order to concentrate on her preaching and poetry. "Shortly after more than 75 of her works appeared in a three-person show at the Folk Art Museum in New York in 1973, Morgan received a new revelation telling her to stop painting. From then until her death she concentrated on preaching and poetry. 'Painting now? Oh no,' she reportedly said in 1974. 'I'm way too worried. Worrying about what time it is and praying on people's cases.'"[3]

Sister Morgan died in 1980.[1]

Works or publications[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gertrude Morgan - United States Social Security Death Index". FamilySearch. July 1980. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Gertrude "Sister Gertrude Morgan" Williams Morgan". Find A Grave. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d DeCarlo, Tessa (22 February 2004). "Sister Gertrude, a Preacher Who Could Paint". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Frances Williams - United States Census, 1920". FamilySearch. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Gertrude Morgan - United States Census, 1940". FamilySearch. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Sheets, Hilarie M. (15 August 2004). "Books in Brief: Nonfiction - Tools of Her Ministry". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2 August 2004). "CRITIC'S CHOICE/Jazz CD's; Singing With Power, Citing the Bible". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]