A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 18, 2012
“Right side of history” ("Wrong side of history")

The phrase “the right side of history” was said by American lawyer Clemens J. France in 1946 and “the wrong side of history” has been cited in print since at least 1951. In 1964, a newspaper editorial stated that Southerners who fought against civil rights for blacks “must know in their hearts and minds that they are on the wrong side of history.”

Jesse Jackson popularized the “right side of history” expression in the 1970s and 1980s, specifically regarding apartheid in South Africa. In the 2010s, to support gay marriage was said by its proponents to be on “the right side of history,” similar to the 1960s civil rights struggles.

Jay Nordlinger noted in April 2011 that “the right side of history” is similar to the phrase “the tide of history.” Nordlinger wrote, “I say, gay marriage may be right or wrong, inevitable or evitable, but why drag history into it? The victorious side is not always the right one, is it?”


HathiTrust Digital Library
Google Books
Amendments to Social Security Act. Hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means, Volumes 5-7
U.S. Congress. Committee on Ways and Means
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office
1946
Pg. 829:
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF CLEMENS J. FRANCE IN CONNECTION WITH TESTIMONY BEFORE THE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE, MAY 2, 1946
I have often thought that after one departed from this Vale of Tears that the greatest satisfaction one would have in Heaven, if he had the good fortune to arrive there, would be that he would be able to look back on earth and know that he was on the right side of history.

I can imagine the wonderful satisfaction it was, and is, to be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and to the late-lamented President Roosevelt, to know that however embattled they were in life that in the hereafter they could look back and know that they were on the right side of history.
(...)
Today, history is on wings. It changes as rapid as the rocket plane. It is quite a job therefore to be on the right side of history in the year 1946.

Google Books
Failure in Japan:
With Keystones for a Positive Policy

By Robert B. Textor
New York, NY: John Day
1951
Pg. 20:
THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY
Pg. 22:
Our task, then, is not blindly to back a political group that is on the wrong side of history. Rather, we must develop an advance guard of forces that will favor nonviolent change to the end that more people will be able to participate meaningfully in social decision-making.

27 December 1952, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, pg. A6, col. 3:
The short sermon by Rev. Shattuck will be on “The Right Side of History.”
(Calvary Presbyterian Church, also advertised in col. 1—ed.)

20 July 1956, Kingsport (TN) Times, pg. 4, col. 3:
This act puts us on the wrong side of history, consequently we went wrong in World War II fighting to help make the world safe for atheistic communism.
(Letter by R. Hunter Dickenson—ed.)

15 January 1964, The Times (Corpus Christi, TX), “Civil Rights” (editorial), pg. 14, col. 2:
Intelligent Southerners, including their senators, must know in their hearts and minds that they are on the wrong side of history.

15 November 1966, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Heights Schools Racial Plan Criticized, Praised,” pg. 26, cols. 5-6:
John Barton, a parent added that “people who oppose this policy are on the wrong side of history.”

Google Books
Tribe, State and Community:
Contemporary Government and Justice

By Charlotte Waterlow
Fakenham, Norfolk: Cox & Wyman Ltd.
1967
Pg. 44:
The Communist system of government, based on a dogmatic interpretation of Marxist philosophy as if it were a religious revelation, may therefore be described as ‘ideocracy’, if we may coin such a word. Like the priesthoods of olden days, the party leaders, convinced that they are on the right side of history (instead of God), assume a moral authority to condition the thoughts and control the actions of their subjects in all spheres of life, and to conduct a righteous crusade against the wicked capitalist powers.

13 January 1976, The Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Ultraleftists seek defeat of U.S. foreign policy” by Patrick J. Buchanan, pg. A15, col. 6:
Further left, one encounters those who believe that Truman was as much to blame as Stalin for the Cold War, that America has stumbled onto the wrong side of history, that our policy should be less concerned with the success of Soviet-supported movements in the Third World and more concerned with divorcing ourselves totally from the authoritarian regimes with which we are too closely associated.

16 April 1977, Chicago (IL) Metro News, “PUSH Defends Affirmative Action and Quotas” by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, pg. 8, col. 3:
We are appealing to America to join the right side of history.

12 August 1979, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Uneasy Partnership with Apartheid” by Jesse L. Jackson, sec. 2, pg. 2, col. 4:
The partnership with apartheid in South Africa identifies the United States with the wrong side of history.

20 August 1979, The Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Investments hit,” pg. A9, col. 1:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)—The Rev. Jesse Jackson, calling for a reassessment of U.S.-South African relations, urged American universities on Sunday to stop investing in companies doing business in the racially segregated country.

Jackson told 550 University of Michigan graduates that “something on the inside has told the black South African that he should be free.”

“I would urge this university and all within the sound of my voice to choose to be on the right side of history,” said Jackson, sparking waves of applause from the graduates and commencement guests.

22 April 1984, Seattle (WA) Times, “Silence a form of condescension” by George Will, pg. A27, col. 6:
Invited to condemn the Irish Republican Army, Jackson refuses: “I feel an identity with the mission.” Nicaragua’s Sandinistas? They “are on the right side of history” and “moving forward” democracy and the elections they keep promising will be more free than some ofthe Democratic Party’s caucuses.

19 July 1985, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), pg. 7B, col. 1:
Maybe Carter’s foreign policy
was on the right side of history

By Jefferson Morley

13 August 1985, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), pg. 8A, col. 2:
Jackson called on the U.S. government to “choose the right side of history.” “The kinship our government has with South Africa (the government) is a real sense of shame,” he said.

OCLC WorldCat record
CHINA: “The Wrong Side of History” - Jiang Zemin gets lectured about human rights. Will he get it?
Publisher: [New York, etc., Time Inc.]
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Time. (November 10, 1997): 72
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
On the wrong side of history : children and the death penalty in the USA.
Author: Amnesty International. International Secretariat.
Publisher: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1998.
Edition/Format:  Article

OCLC WorldCat record
On the Right Side of History
Author: A J Bacevich
Publisher: New York, America Press.
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: America. 178, no. 4, (1998): 24
Database: ArticleFirst
Other Databases: British Library Serials

OCLC WorldCat record
Jiang Zemin: On the Right Side of History? - China’s all-too-human leader takes his country into the twenty-first century—Or is he just along for the ride?
Author: Bruce Gilley
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Events Pub. Co., 1941-
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Current history. 98, no. 629, (1999): 249
Database: ArticleFirst
Other Databases: British Library Serials

OCLC WorldCat record
On the right side of history
Author: John C Bogle; Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership.
Publisher: Indianapolis, Ind. : Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership, ©1999.
Series: Voices of servant-leadership series, booklet 1. 
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Being on the wrong side of history : the re-segregation of Norfolk public schools
Author: Judith Brooks-Buck; Carol Camp Yeakey
Publisher: Greenwich, Conn. : Information Age ; London : Eurospan, 2004.
Series: Research on African American education. 
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The right side of history - The author has been wrong about a lot—But not the big things
Author: Mark Steyn
Publisher: London : F.C. Westley, 1828-
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: The spectator. (March 05, 2005): 14
Database: ArticleFirst

National Review Online
April 18, 2011
‘The Right Side of History’
It’s bunk

BY JAY NORDLINGER
(...)
Lately, “the right side of history” is everywhere. We have long had the phrase. But people are doubling down, or tripling down, on their use of it. A close cousin of this phrase is “the tide of history” — a tide not to be resisted. When Jody Williams won the Nobel peace prize in 1997 for her campaign to ban landmines, she said that President Clinton was “outside the tide of history” — because, under him, the United States refused to join the Mine Ban Treaty (chiefly because treaty organizers refused to make an exception for the demilitarized zone between the Koreas). The laureate also said that Clinton was “on the wrong side of humanity” — and a “weenie.”

Back to “the right side of history.” When they say it, what do people mean? They may mean “my side,” or “the good side,” or “the side that posterity will smile on.” People may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy. Or they may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of socialism, or a stricter form of collectivism. For generations, the Left has assumed that history marches with them: Get out of the way, or be crushed.
(...)
Travel back to 1984, when Jesse Jackson was running for president. He said that the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who were self-declared Marxist-Leninists, were “on the right side of history.”
(...)
With every passing day, you hear something else about “the right side of history,” or the “wrong side.” Gay marriage is inevitable, people say: Better get on the right side of history. I say, gay marriage may be right or wrong, inevitable or evitable, but why drag history into it? The victorious side is not always the right one, is it?

National Review Online—The Tyranny Blog
Gay Marriage & The “Right Side of History”
By Jonah Goldberg
May 11, 2012 3:15 P.M.
(...)
It just so happens that “the right side of history” is one of the topics I discuss early in the book. (The Tyranny of Clichés—ed.) My chief problem with the “right side of history” argument is that it is used an appeal to the authority of an imagined future that hasn’t even happened yet. It is a way of saying to your opponents: you should give up not because your arguments are wrong but because you will eventually lose anyway. It is an attempt to demoralize your opponents not engage them. Some excerpts:

How often do we hear people say we must “get on the right side of history,” as if they know their own history? “When they say it, what do people mean?” asks my National Review colleague, Jay Nordlinger.

They may mean “my side,” or “the good side,” or “the side that posterity will smile on.” People may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy. Or they may be alluding to the ultimate triumph of socialism, or a stricter form of collectivism. For generations, the Left has assumed that history marches with them: Get out of the way, or be crushed.

The phrase has what British historian Robert Conquest calls a “Marxist twang.” The Marxists believed that history was predictable and unidirectional, so of course there must be a right side and a wrong side to it. The candle makers were on the wrong side, the lightbulb makers the right side. But history doesn’t work like that. There were times when it was obvious that technology aided tyrants and there have been times— much like our own—when it seemed equally obvious that technology must liberate the individual. The truth is, it must do neither. As Richard Pipes tells Nordlinger, “The whole notion is nonsensical.” To which Nordlinger adds, “History does not have sides, although historians do.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, July 18, 2012 • Permalink


I heard that phrase before, I think it has a lot of meaning when talking about the history of this country.

Posted by Ken Kindt  on  10/09  at  11:24 PM

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