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Spelman College's In Memoriam Tributes

Spelman Cherishes the Life of Christine King Farris 

In Loving Memory of a Trailblazer and a Beacon of Light and Hope

(September 11, 1927 – June 29, 2023) 

Spelman College Celebrates Christine King Farris

The Spelman community gathers in spirit and solidarity to honor the extraordinary life of Professor Emerita Christine King Farris, C’48, a remarkable woman who left an indelible mark on our world. As an alumna of Spelman College, her legacy resonates deeply within the hearts of countless individuals whose lives she touched through her tireless dedication to education, civil rights and the pursuit of equality.

A Three-day Celebration fit for a Queen

 

A True Blue Legacy of Excellence

 
Spelman Professor Emerita Christine King FarrisFarris was not only a sister to the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but she was a trailblazer and an advocate for justice. Born on September 11, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia, she grew up in a time of immense racial inequality. However, her spirit was unyielding and undaunted by the fight. In fact, her commitment to change burned bright from an early age.

As a student at Spelman, Farris’ passion for education flourished. On campus, she thrived in an environment that nurtured her intellectual curiosity and fostered her innate leadership abilities. With her unwavering determination and thirst for knowledge, she was a symbol of inspiration for her peers and future generations of Spelman women.

Even before she graduated from the Spelman nursery in 1931, Farris’ mother, grandmother and great-aunt had all matriculated at the institution. 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


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An Activist, Author and Drum Major for Justice 

 
Spelman Remembers Christine King Farris
 

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.

In 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  Woman Who Wore Many Crowns

 
Christine King Farris Remembered
 
Through her actions and words, Christine King Farris embodied the principles of love, compassion and equality that defined the civil rights movement. Her grace, resilience and unwavering commitment to justice serve as a guiding light for all those who continue to strive for a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Today, as we mourn the loss of a remarkable woman, let us also celebrate the immeasurable impact she made during her time on Earth. Farris' legacy will forever resonate within the halls of Spelman College and far beyond. Her spirit will continue to inspire us to speak out against injustice, to educate ourselves and others, and to work tirelessly for a world where equality reigns supreme.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." Christine King Farris, through her luminous life, illuminated the path toward a brighter future for us all. May her light continue to shine brightly, guiding us on our journey toward a more just and compassionate world.

 

A Family Legacy of Faith 

 

Farris was married to Isaac Farris Sr., for 57 years, until his passing in December 2018. 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.

Tribute Submission for Christine King Farris

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Tribute Submission

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