They have been called "unfortunate" in Sicily, "socially inept" in France and "evil" in some other countries. In ancient Greece, they didn't get invited to toga parties.

If you're left-handed, you're one of them.But don't despair. A Kansas-based group called Left-handers International is trying to help lefties shed some of the negative labels that have stuck with them for centuries. The group has declared Aug. 13 "International Left-handers Day."

"Some people think we're kind of strange," said Dean Campbell, a beer salesman who founded Left-handers International in 1975. "The world flows one way, but we're trying to turn that around a little bit."

Campbell's organization fights for left-hander rights in the workplace, in schools and wherever else lefties need a hand surviving in a world dominated by unsympathetic right-handers.

He said items like desks, golf clubs, kitchen utensils and even telephone cords have frustrated lefties for years because they were traditionally designed by right-handers who didn't pay much attention to the needs of lefties.

When he formed his group 13 years ago, Campbell drafted the "Bill of Lefts," which pledged to put an end to such discrimination by championing "the freedom, worth and dignity of left-handers throughout the world."

That's no easy task considering the shoddy treatment the left hand has received for the past few centuries. It is regarded as evil by practitioners of Black Magic and is treated as a symbol of inferiority in some passages of the Bible.

It also gets a bad rap in languages, where left is gauche in French and sinister in Latin.

"Generally the left side is regarded as unlucky or clumsy," said Lauren Harris, a psychology professor at Michigan State University who has researched the mystique surrounding southpaws.

Harris, a lefty himself, said superstitions about the left hand may have their roots in early civilizations, where it was necessary to use one hand for eating and the other for "profane acts."

He said such traditions could naturally lead to discrimination against people who chose to eat or gesture with the "unsanitary" hand.

"That's only one possibility," Harris said. "But it's clear that examples of these superstitions can be found in every kind of culture."

In ancient Greece, young men born to elite families were taught to use their right hand for all occasions, Harris said. Even togas were designed to be worn only by right-handers, making it almost impossible for lefties to take part in social events.

And some modern societies, such as Saudi Arabia and Japan, still consider it improper to use the left hand in public or for writing.

"We're trying to change some of those negative attitudes," Campbell said of his organization. "We focus on the good life of lefties."

Left-handers, who make up about 10 percent of the population, can count some impressive names among their ranks: Ben Franklin, W.C. Fields, Ted Koppel, Alexander the Great and President Harry Truman to name a few.

Even some of the most famous "righties" in politics - George Bush and Pat Robertson - are left-handed. "I guess you could say we'll be in good hands if the Republicans win this year," Campbell said.

The pro-lefties also argue that being a southpaw is a big advantage in baseball because lefty batters stand a few steps closer to first base, and in tennis because left-handers put an unusual spin on the ball.

Ty Cobb, Wade Boggs, Martina Navratilova, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe all have excelled in those sports as left-handers.

Lefties, however, also must list a few bad eggs among their number, including Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler. Such diversity in the lefty population has made them an enigma to scientists.

"We don't really know anything about their brains," said Jerre Levy, a biopsychology professor at the University of Chicago who has studied both right- and left-handers.

She said scientists have been unable to determine why brain organization in left-handers appears to be more diverse than that in right-handers, or why lefties are disproportionately represented in the fields of mathematics and art.

"Everybody's trying to figure us out," Campbell said. "At least we've got their attention."

In an effort to focus that attention on the positive aspects of being left-handed, Campbell's group sponsors Left-hander's Day, publishes a bi-monthly magazine and markets T-shirts that proclaim "Left On!" and "Left-handers are the only ones in their right minds."

No major events have been scheduled for Left-hander's Day, but Campbell said it should be an upbeat affair for lefties.

"We're not a militant group or anything and we don't have a big axe to grind with anybody," Campbell said. "We're just out to improve our rights."