Liverpool is famed for many things – including The Beatles and its football team. But few would associate the city with one of the most famous political speeches in history.
Yet tourism officials in the city have published the extraordinary claim that Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was written at a city centre hotel.
The allegation has been made in a guide to a major art event entitled “Liverpool Discovers”, commissioned by amongst others, the city council.
A map in the guide shows how more than 20 locations where famous people were born along with places associated with celebrities and events in their lives.
The guide proclaims: “Martin Luther King visited his supporters in Liverpool three times, and the first draft of his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech is alleged to be written on Adelphi Hotel headed notepaper.”
The speech, delivered to civil rights campaigners on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1963, is one of the most quoted texts in history and was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights movement and in the fight for racial equality.
Its links, if any, to Liverpool, have for nearly half a century been kept under wraps, and experts were quick yesterday to suggest that is where they should remain.
Dr King’s biographer, Godfrey Hodgson said that the suggestion does not fit the facts.
He said: “I just don’t believe it to be true. If he had gone to Liverpool there would have been substantial coverage, as he would have been a big figure by then.
“Dr King did visit the UK on a number of occasions but he was not in Britain around the time of this famous speech in 1963.”
Prof John Belcham, a Liverpool University history lecturer who wrote an 800-year history of Liverpool in 2008, confirmed that he was unaware of any connection between Dr King and the city.
That, however, has not stopped tourism officials in publishing the rumour, and yesterday they were unrepentant. They said that the claim came from a public consultation and there was nothing to suggest it was untrue.
A spokesman for Liverpool Discovers said: “All of the facts we have came from a public consultation where we asked people to submit what they knew about Liverpool.
“They are not official; they are just things about Liverpool that many people may not know.
“As you will appreciate it is sometimes difficult to prove historical facts, and we have run the map by local historians to best verify what appeared.
“Although biographers such as those associated with Martin Luther King may not be aware of such a fact, with all due respect to them, that in itself does not prove it to be untrue.
“Many cities reference stories about their history that cannot be absolutely proven – and in this case the word ‘alleged’ informs the reader that the fact is not set in stone.”
It has though left tourist guides in the city somewhat out on a limb. One said: “We are getting people asking us to tell them more about this remarkable event and why there is no plaque at the hotel to commemorate it.
“We have to say it is some kind of urban legend that has been printed in error. It’s very embarrassing.”