Martin Luther King was a young minister in the town of Montgomery, Alabama.
At the end of 1955 he and Rosa Parks launched the Civil Rights movement when they organised a boycott of the city’s segregated bus service. After black workers refused to ride the buses for a year they won desegregation.
All across the Southern states of the US the notorious Jim Crow laws segregated black and white people, legally pushing blacks into a second class role.
The laws were introduced at the end of the 19th century by rulers determined to keep the black and white poor separate. The unity that they had shown in the period known as Radical Reconstruction after the Civil War terrified the rich. They used the terror of the Ku Klux Klan and the new laws to regain control.
King came to inspire and lead a movement that fought to end these laws. By 1963 they forced the federal government to pass a Civil Rights Act outlawing Jim Crow. The US remained a deeply racist country and people had to fight to get the new law enforced.