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 planning to go to Washington just weeks later.
None of the photos in this gallery were ever published in LIFE.