Women’s History Month: Christine King Farris


Willie Christine King Farris (born September 11, 1927) is the eldest sibling of Martin Luther King Jr. She taught at Spelman College and is the author of several books and was a public speaker on various topics, including the King family, multicultural education, and teaching.

Farris was, for many years, Vice Chair and Treasurer of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and had been active for several years in the International Reading Association, and various church and civic organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

She held tenure professorship at Spelman College for 48 years before retiring in 2014. Farris has also published a children’s book, My Brother Martin, as well as the autobiography, Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith.

Farris was the first child and only daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and is the elder sister of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and A. D. King. The three siblings spent their early years in the home of their grandfather, Adam Daniel Williams, who died on March 21, 1931. She married Issac Newton Farris Sr. (1934–2017) on August 19, 1960. They had two children: Issac Newton Farris Jr. (born April 13, 1962), and Angela Christine Farris Watkins (born May 29, 1964). She had a granddaughter from her daughter Angela, Farris Christine Watkins (born January 22, 1997).

Farris endured the 1968 assassination of brother Martin, the 1969 accidental drowning of brother A. D., and the 1974 assassination of her mother. Farris did not return to Memphis, Tennessee, since traveling there after her brother’s assassination to retrieve his body. In recent years, she attended the funerals of sister-in-law, Coretta Scott King (died January 30, 2006) and niece Yolanda King (died May 15, 2007). In an interview with CNN, she said she would not attend an April 2008 event marking the 40th anniversary of her brother’s assassination, because the painful memories of her last visit to Memphis still haunted her. Her husband, Isaac Newton Farris Sr., died on December 30, 2017, at the age of 83.