The Eagle has Landed, Amilcar Cabral and the Moon

Authors: Kafui Attoh*, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: Rights, Moon Landing, Science, Dialectical Materialism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8229, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, this paper explores the relationship between scientific progress and the struggles of marginalized communities for freedom and basic socioeconomic rights. The paper takes its start from the contrasting comments of two writers -- the poet Gil-Scott Heron and the Marxist revolutionary Amilcar Cabral. Writing in the aftermath of the Apollo 11 mission, Heron’s famous poem “Whitey on the Moon” pointed to the cruel irony of spending billions on space travel while U.S. inner cities continued to play host to crime and entrenched poverty. Heron’s critique was an important one, although it stood in sharp contrast to the comments of Amilcar Cabral -- a revolutionary, who was, at the time, leading the fight for an independent Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. In the midst of armed conflict, and in a speech to a young cadre of independence fighters, Cabral urged the people of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde to join in with those celebrating the moon landing and everything it represented. Drawing on Cabral’s writing and biography, this paper explores his optimism and his view of the relationship between scientific progress and the struggles of third world people in places like Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. As the paper will argue, Cabral’s optimism not only emerged from a deep commitment to science but to the dialectical movement of history.

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