The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Poem contrasts moon landing, plight of Black Americans

Gil Scott-Heron, a poet and musician, wrote “Whitey on the Moon” in 1970. The poem juxtaposed the success of Apollo 11 with the poverty and struggles of Black Americans at the time. 

Listen to his reading of the poem here.

“Whitey on the Moon”

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)
I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be paying still.
(while Whitey’s on the moon)
The man just upped my rent last night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
I wonder why he’s upping me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
I wuz already paying him fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes taking my whole damn check,
Junkies making me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is going up,
An’ as if all that shit was’t enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arm began to swell.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Was all that money I made last year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain’t no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey’s on the moon)
Y’know I just about had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I’ll send these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

– Gil Scott-Heron, 1970

About the Author

Clarissa Martinez
Clarissa Martinez
Editor-in-chief
Clarissa Martinez is a junior communications major at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She loves writing about important issues and also loves exploring interesting topics, such as movie and music reviews. In her spare time, she loves listening to music, watching movies and television shows, and going to concerts. In the future, she hopes to end up with a career in Film and Television Production or in Journalism.

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