Written By: Liz Ronk

Attracting star power to the civil rights movement was as much about raising money as it was about galvanizing public support. Fundraisers held across the country in 1963 often featured celebrities and artists on hand to help raise cash for the March on Washington. One of these events took place just a few weeks before the March, in Birmingham, Ala., where violent clashes between local police and young protesters in May 1963 spurred the momentum that culminated in the March on Washington in late August.

Dubbed a “Salute to Freedom,” the concert was held at Miles College and included appearances by Martin Luther King Jr., Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Johnny Mathis, James Baldwin and other political and pop-culture stars. Proceeds from the show helped cover transportation costs for Alabamans who went to Washington just weeks later.

None of the photos in this gallery were ever published in LIFE.

Martin Luther King Jr. (seated, at right) watches the Shirelles perform during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Martin Luther King Jr. (seated, at right) watched the Shirelles perform during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Author James Baldwin looks out at the crowd from the stage during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Author James Baldwin looked out at the crowd.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Ray Charles performs during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Ray Charles performed.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The crowd reacts during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

The crowd reacted during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

The Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Joey Adams (left), president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, and the Shirelles on stage during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Joey Adams (left), president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, on stage with the Shirelles.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Nina Simone performs during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Nina Simone performed.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Fans, Salute to Freedom benefit concert, Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Fans enjoyed the concert.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and an unidentified man address the crowd during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Martin Luther King Jr. (left) and an unidentified man addressed the crowd.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

The Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A man holds an American Guild of Variety Artists banner during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

A man held an American Guild of Variety Artists banner during the Salute to Freedom benefit concert in Birmingham, Ala., August 5, 1963.

Grey Villet/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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