was one of the twentieth century's most powerful and influential advocates for nonviolent social change in the civil rights movement in modern America. King's non-violent approach in bringing about effective, long-term change had a significant role in the progress of the civil rights movement in America during the 1950's and 60's. King's strong influence and unique approach attained more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. (About MLK Nonviolent Social Change, 2014 The King Centre) King's method of non-violence epitomized the most important aspects of the civil rights campaign, bringing about massive international cover to the movement and establishing his place as an emblematic and influential leader.
Although slavery in the United States ended in the late 19th century, institutionalized racism persisted in oppressing African Americans decades later. By the 1950's and 1960's, African Americans still suffered prevalent discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives (MLK Fighting for Equal Rights, 2014 Tavaana). Racial inequality was still extant in African American's ability to fully exercise their right to vote, as well as in employment, housing, education and transport. Laws, known a Jim Crow Laws, legalized racial segregation, which submitted African-Americans to second-class citizenship, whilst enforcing white supremacy. (Jim Crow Laws, 2014 MLK National Historic Site) These laws enforced the segregation public schools, restrooms, restaurants and even drinking fountains for whites and blacks. This racial divide resulted in widespread inequality, limiting African Americans access to and quality of their basic human rights, including health care, employment and education. This discrimination can be seen in the divide of resources in the education system, where in 1949 in Alabama, the states expenditure for African American students was only 27 per cent of its expenditure of white students.