The Jim Crow Laws
From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through "Jim Crow" laws (so called after a black character in minstrel shows). From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states (and cities, too) could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race. The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated.
Martin's childhood & the Jim Crow Laws
the Jim Crow laws came to be known as living proof of day-to-day racial discrimination. Blacks were not allowed in restaurants, could not drink from the same water fountains as white people and suffered humiliating injustices at the hands of white people in the south. It was the experiences of these early childhood days that led Martin Luther King Jr. to his passionate crusade for equality.