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Christine King Farris, Spelman College professor and King's older sister, passes at 95

Christine King Farris, professor emerita of education at Spelman College and Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s older sister, passed away this morning in Atlanta at the age of 95. 

Born on 11 September 1927 in Atlanta, Georgia, Willie Christine King served as an early influence on her two brothers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Alfred Daniel King. Martin Luther King, Jr., later recalled that Farris had influenced his decision to join the church: “My sister was the first one to join the church that morning, and after seeing her join I decided that I would not let her get ahead of me, so I was the next.” Farris attended Oglethorpe School and Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta before enrolling at Spelman College, where she received her B.A. in Economics in 1948. She pursued post-graduate study at Columbia University Teachers’ College, receiving masters’ degrees in Social Foundations of Education in 1950 and special education in 1958.

Despite her qualifications, when Farris applied for a teaching position in Atlanta following her first masters' degree, her requests were initially denied, perhaps due to Martin Luther King, Sr.,’s decade-long campaign to equalize teacher salaries in the then-segregated school system. After her father called the mayor on her behalf, Farris became a teacher at W. H. Crogman Elementary School in Atlanta before becoming Associate Professor of Education at Spelman College in 1958. She continued to teach at Spelman before her retirement in 2014, and Spelman awarded her a Founders' Day Honoree in 2018.

Farris was also a lifetime member at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and she married Isaac Newton Farris, who also attended Ebenezer, on 19 August 1960. The couple had two children, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., and Angela Christine Farris, and grandchild Farris Christine Watkins. Like the other members in her family, Farris was active in civil rights causes, including affiliations with the National Conference for Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Farris helped found the King Center in his memory and served as founding board member, former vice-chair, and former treasurer of the organization. She also authored 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 was also a member of the King Papers Project's Advisory Board and a strong supporter of our work.