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Christine King Farris

Civil rights activist and education professor Christine King Farris was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 11, 1927, to Alberta Christine Williams King and Martin Luther King, Sr. She was the eldest of three children: her younger siblings were Martin Luther King, Jr., and Alfred Daniel (A.D.) Williams King. Farris and her family belonged to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father preached. Farris attended Yonge Street Elementary School, famous for its organization of the first black Parent-Teacher Association, before transferring to Oglethorpe Elementary. From 1940 to 1942, she attended Atlanta University’s Laboratory High School, and when it closed, she enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School, which her grandfather helped to found. In 1944, Farris graduated from Washington High School and entered Spelman College, where her grandmother, mother and great-aunt had all matriculated.

In 1948, Farris graduated from Spelman College with her B.A. degree in economics. One year later, she graduated from Columbia University with her M.A. degree in the social foundations of education. Over the next few summers, she earned a second M.A. degree from Columbia University in special education. In 1950, Farris took her first job as a teacher at W.H. Crogman Elementary, where she taught a seventh grade reading class. In 1958, Farris was hired as director of the freshman reading program at Spelman College, and eventually became director of the Learning Resources Center, a position she still holds. She is Spelman's longest-serving faculty member. In 1965, when her brother, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., led the campaign to vote in Selma, Alabama, Farris sang at the opening rally on the day they departed for Montgomery. After his death, his wife, Coretta Scott King, founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Farris served as the treasurer and taught workshops on nonviolence. Farris also went on to found the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child Development Center.

The recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award, Farris helped establish the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site in 1980, at the suggestion of President Jimmy Carter. She is the author of the acclaimed children's book, My Brother Martin, and of an autobiography, Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith. Currently, Farris resides in Atlanta with her husband, Isaac Newton Farris. They have two children, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., and Angela Christine Farris, and one granddaughter, Farris Christine Watkins.

Christine King Farris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 11, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.074

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/11/2010

11/19/2017

Last Name

Farris

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

King

Schools

Spelman College

Teachers College, Columbia University

Atlanta University Lab School

Booker T. Washington High School

First Name

Christine

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

KIN15

State

Georgia

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/11/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Short Description

Civil rights activist and education professor Christine King Farris (1927 - ) was the eldest sibling of the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. She was the longest serving faculty member of Spelman College, and served as vice chair and treasurer of the King Center.

Employment

Spelman College

W. H. Crogman Elementary School

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/859">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Christine King Farris' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/860">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her childhood home, her parents Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and her maternal grandparents, part 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/861">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris discusses her childhood home, her parents Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and her maternal grandparents, part 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/862">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris discusses the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood at 501 Auburn Avenue</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/863">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes her neighborhood and how she spent her leisure time as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/864">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris discusses her relationship with her brothers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alfred King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/865">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about family traditions and her earliest memories growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/866">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris talks about being a part of Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/867">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris talks about her home environment growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/868">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses family dinners and her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., as an activist</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/869">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her father's activist influence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/870">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris discusses the death of her maternal grandmother, Jennie Celeste Williams, and the impact on her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/871">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris discusses choosing a college and her family's legacy at Morehouse College and Spelman College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/872">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses her family's homes at 501 Auburn Avenue, 193 Boulevard and Dale Creek Drive in Atlanta, Georgia.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/873">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris describes her childhood neighborhood and its businesses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/874">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her brothers' and father's names, traditions at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Baptist denomination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/875">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about her brother's decision to join the ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/876">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris talks about her brother's development as a young minister and his influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/877">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about attending graduate school at Columbia University and her brother's theological education at Crozer Theological Seminary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/878">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about her family's relationship with Dr. Benjamin Mays and conflicts within the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/879">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses her brother's beginnings as a civil rights activist, the SCLC and SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/880">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris talks about her family's role in supporting Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/881">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about the Baptist World Alliance, her brother Alfred's role in the Civil Rights Movement and danger in Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/882">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her father and brother's name change and provides anecdotes about Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/883">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about homecoming at Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/884">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris explains and describes baptism and tithing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/885">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes the church during her childhood, church traditions and her Uncle Joel King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/886">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about the Sunday morning murder of her mother, Alberta Williams King by Marcus Chenault</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/887">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about childhood pets and her brother's grief over the death of their maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/888">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her brother, Martin, Jr.'s burial and his accomplishments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673428">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Christine King Farris's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673429">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris remembers the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673430">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris remembers the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673431">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris describes the idea for a living memorial for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673432">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers the 1969 celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673433">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about preserving Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673434">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris recalls balancing teaching with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673435">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris talks about recognition of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673436">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris describes Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life's work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673437">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris remembers the assassination of her brother, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673438">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris recalls the aftermath of her brother's assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673439">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her friendship with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673440">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the early locations of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673441">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers fundraising for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673442">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes her efforts to teach nonviolence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673443">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about the role of faith through her family's struggles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673444">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris recalls parenting with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673445">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris recalls her decision to become an educator</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673446">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris remembers the birth of her granddaughter, Farris Christine Watkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673447">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her granddaughter's interest in education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673448">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris remembers meeting her husband, Isaac Newton Farris, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673449">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes campus life at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673450">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris remembers Spelman College President Florence M. Read</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673451">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris recalls singing with the Spelman College glee club</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673452">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris describes the campus rules at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673453">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris remembers slipping off of Spelman College's campus as a student</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673454">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris talks about her classmates at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673455">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris recalls returning to Spellman College as a professor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673456">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the relationship between Spelman College and Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673457">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers her classmates at Spelman College and Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673458">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes campus life at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673459">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about her marriage to Isaac Newton Farris, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673460">Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris remembers her wedding</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673461">Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris remembers her mother's support following her brother's assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673462">Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Christine King Farris remembers her relationship with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673463">Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris reflects upon the many losses in her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673464">Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673465">Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris remembers the death of Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673466">Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the exposure that comes from her brother's prominence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673467">Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris talks about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673468">Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes various collections of her brother's papers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673469">Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris describes her hopes for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673470">Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about race in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673471">Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673472">Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her children</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Christine King Farris discusses her relationship with her brothers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alfred King
Christine King Farris discusses her brother, Martin, Jr.'s burial and his accomplishments
Transcript
Now, did you parents talk at all about your role as the youngest [oldest]? Were you required to sort of look after your younger brothers [Martin Luther King, Jr.] [Alfred Daniel]?$$Well, in a way, yes. I recall that someone had made a good cake and given it to our family. And it was so good, the boys were just eating it away and slipping and getting it. So Dad [Martin Luther King, Sr.] called us together, and so he told them, "You know, now, you're not supposed to--you know, you don't eat cake without permission. You need to check with your mother or something." And so as they were putting the cake up and my brother M.L., [Martin Luther King, Jr.] who you would refer to as Martin, but we called him "M.L", he said, and so Dad told him, now, Christine is the oldest. So she's in charge. So you'll have to check with her. And, so as we were putting up the cake and everything, and there were crumbs around, and so it was so interesting and pitiful and M.L. said, "Well, Christine, can I have some of these crumbs?" (laughter) And, of course, I said, yes.$$So, were you a good big sister?$$I was a good, big sister, yes.$$Were you a disciplinarian yourself?$$Not really, not really. That was supposed to be my role, but I wasn't really a disciplinarian cause a lot of times I would be with them.$$Tell me about what the relationship, you know, because siblings have relationships. So can you talk about each of your brothers and yourself as young people?$$Well, we were very close because the three of us, I mean oft times, you know, we would go with my parents to places. And so we were, were very close, and, of course, I'm being the only girl and the oldest, and Dad would stress that, "She is in charge". Of course, they, you know, leaned on me a lot. But we played together.$$So was M.L. or A.D. [Alfred Daniel], were they mischievous like boys are or--$$Typical boys, typical boys. And I would want people to understand that. I mean he was, he was normal, typical boy, played and things.$$So give an example because we all have memories. So give an example from your memory.$$Yeah, well, I mean M.L. played those games, baseball, basketball. We had a basketball thing out in the yard, and they would play that. One day, and, of course, they were always, as I said, a little on the mischievous side. We had a garage in the backyard, and it had a slight incline. Dad kept the car in the garage, and, of course, typical boys wanting to explore and see what it was, they got in the car. And apparently, Dad had left the keys in the car, and they turned on the ignition, and they went straight through the back of that garage. And, of course, you know, they were taken care of when Dad found out (laughter) what had happened, yeah. They were typical. They were always exploring, seeing what things were all about. And, of course, like all boys, they wanted to drive a car. They weren't old enough to drive, so they were experimenting with the car, carried them right through the back of the garage.$$So how old were they about that time?$$Hum, I guess about nine, ten.$$So your father was pretty upset I bet ya.$$Oh, definitely (laughter).$$So they got a little hand to the--$$Yeah, they got a little taken care of on that one.$I have two more questions, and one is, if, you know, the facility has been built there, you know, and we have the Center and we have the National Park Service. What are your feelings about what has been done here in honor of your brother [Martin Luther King, Jr.] and your family?$$Well, I feel very good because I was right on, in from the beginning. I worked with my sister-in-law [Coretta Scott King], we worked through the design and what it should be. So, it's a humbling experience, but I think one that, you know, that we're pleased with. And all the time we were building this and thinking about the entombment, I was the one, along with my sister-in-law, who my brother was moved to his final location. It was about three times. We first moved him from South View Cemetery [Atlanta, Georgia]. That's where he was entombed at the beginning. And we decided that we had to move him there because hate was still on the move. And one day we discovered that there were bullet marks in that mausoleum. Of course, you know, it couldn't get through, but just the idea of somebody--we didn't know what they were trying to do. So we said, we've got to get him away from where we can protect him more. And so that's when we first brought him over--there was a vacant lot right next to the church [Ebenezer Baptist Church]. And we put him in a mausoleum there temporarily. He stayed there for several months, and then we built, there was space further up. And while we were constructing the King Center, as it is now, that's where he rested in that space. And we put a picket fence around it, and, of course, people are coming visiting. And then finally, we moved him to where he is now entombed. And I was at the forefront of all of those moves, you know, along with my sister-in-law. And when we first moved him from South View Cemetery, we did it early in the morning, and right then, it was unusual for much traffic to be out like 1:00 and 2:00 o'clock in the morning. So we met, got a few deacons from Ebenezer. And I went along with Coretta, and I think that was all, along with those deacons. And Ralph Abernathy was with us at that point, and brought him from South View Cemetery to the funeral home, which was on Bell Street, Hanley Bell Street, and brought the casket there. And they sprayed it because it had a little bit of mildew or something on it, and, of course, Coretta and I did not look at him. I think Ralph looked at him, and I don't know, but Coretta and I sat in the back. We didn't look at him, yeah, my father. I mean my husband. And then after that, and then we brought him over here. And, of course, we had somebody guarding it, you know, overnight because it was not protected at all. But he's been moved from South View to this temporary location, and then a little bit further up. So about three times before he was entombed where he is now.$$Oh, the last question was gonna go (laughter). I was wondering also about, you know, what you think your father, your brother, you know, your family would think about the work that, you know, has been done even by the National Park Service? What do you think they would think?$$Yeah, it's a humbling experience, and I think that my brother Martin [Martin Luther King, Jr.], you know, he would be very humble and not thinking that he deserves this. I mean he was self effacing. He didn't look for praise and honor. He felt more like it was a call for him. He was not doing it for the limelight like I see a lot of people now who do things. But it's, you know, so that I can get on camera or whatever, but my brother was not like that. So he would be very humbled by this experienced. And as I, I reflect on it, and I look at it, and it's very humbling to me because I'm saying, "This is my brother, and here he is up here among, you know, presidents." It's really something just growing up, you know, a normal individual, and never would have thought that anything like this would have happened in our family.$$That's it. Okay, thank you. Thanks a lot. Thanks Mrs. Farris.$$Okay.$$So it wasn't so bad, was it?$$No.