Skip To Content
Spelman Students

Our Stories

Founders Day Honoree Christine King Farris Embodies the Dream

June 2018

king sister33Even before she graduated from the Spelman nursery in 1931, Christine King Farris’ mother, grandmother, and great-aunt had all matriculated at the institution. Born Sept. 11, 1927, in Atlanta, Willie Christine King, known affectionately as Christine, was one of “three peas in a pod.” The other two were her younger brothers, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rev. Alfred Daniel King, known to her as ML and AD. She would be the second of four women named Christine in her family.

The product of a “middle-class, God-fearing, politically influential family” of activists and ministers, Farris spent her formative years on the pews of Ebenezer Baptist Church where her grandfather, father, and brothers served as pastors and co-pastors. The three children were taught that racism and segregation were an insult to the will of God; thus began a nonviolent legacy that would change the world. 

In 1944 at the age of 16, Farris entered Spelman where she maintained a social and academic life. While attending Spelman, she was a member of the renowned Spelman College Glee Club under the leadership of professor Kemper Harreld and she performed as a soloist. Also, she was voted “Most Distinguished Student” by her peers. A member of the English and French clubs, Farris was an active member of the NAACP and YWCA and a legacy member of the Granddaughters Club.

A Rich Spelman Legacyking sister22

On Monday, June 7, 1948, Farris received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Spelman, and the very next day, her brother Martin received his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Morehouse College. Unable to attend Georgia’s flagship University of Georgia, because it did not admit Black students until the mid-1960s, Farris attended New York’s Columbia University, where she received a Master’s degree in Social Foundations of Education in 1950 and went on to earn another Master’s in Special Education in 1958.

Denied twice the opportunity to teach in Atlanta Public Schools, Farris was finally successful with her application and began her first professional job as a teacher at W.H. Crogman Elementary School. Eight years later, she returned to her alma mater, Spelman, as director of the Freshman Reading Program, which would later become the Learning Resources Center under the College’s Department of Education. She served as associate professor of education and Director of the Learning Resources Center until she retired, after 56 years, in May of 2014. 

Farris is Professor Emerita and the College’s longest-serving faculty member.

An Activist and an Author

When Farris' brother, Martin Luther King Jr. was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and designated the spokesman for the Montgomery Boycott, she volunteered her time in support of her brother’s leadership. She often worked behind the scenes at protest headquarters and took an active part in nonviolent demonstrations, including the historic Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965 and the March Against Fear in Mississippi in 1966.

king sister11In spite of the great tragedy she experienced when her brother was assassinated, Farris resolved that she would play an active role in preserving her brother’s life and teachings. She joined with her sister-in-law, Coretta Scott King, in 1968, to begin planning for the establishment of a Memorial Center, archives and library to commemorate his achievements. The result of that work is now the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a place of pilgrimage, attracting people from all over the world.

Farris is the author of three books: “My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” “Through It All: Reflections of My Life, My Family, and My Faith,” and “March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World.”

Farris’ warrior spirit has gently swayed the unmovable, which is evident by her accomplishments, receiving Spelman’s first Fannie Lou Hamer Award,  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, the International Reading Association’s Teachers’ Choices Award, the Hyatt Hotels Heritage Community Service Award, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Bennett College, She is a devoted member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The LINKS, Inc. and the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.

A Family Legacy of Excellence

She celebrated her 90th birthday in September and was married to Isaac Farris Sr., for 57 years, until his passing in December. She is the mother of Isaac Newton Farris Jr. and Angela Christine Farris Watkins, Ph.D., C’86, chair of the psychology department and associate professor; the grandmother of Farris Christine Watkins, C’2019; and aunt of Bernice A. King, C’85 and Jennifer Beal Fields, C’2007.

Submit Your Story

We want to hear from you. Briefly tell us about your Spelman achievements. If more information is needed, we will contact you.

Please Note: We appreciate your contribution, but submission of your information does not guarantee you will be featured in Our Stories.
Enter your full name.
For example, C'2020
Limit 500 characters. HTML tags are not allowed. Tell us a little about yourself and why you would like to be profiled in Our Stories.
* Photo
Please provide a large, quality photo.
Be sure the video is marked as Public.
How Did You Hear About Our Stories? (check all that apply)

* Accept Terms