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Walter Thompson-Hernández shares stories of ‘The Compton Cowboys’

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Author Walter Thompson-Hernández talked about “The Compton Cowboys” in a virtual meetup with the Los Angeles Times Book Club at 7 p.m. June 24.

Watch Thompson-Hernández and Times reporter Angel Jennings discuss the world of the new Compton Cowboys, a group of Black riders who find healing and hope on the back of a horse. Their motto: “Streets raised us. Horses saved us.”

The book club’s virtual event will be livestreamed on the Los Angeles Times Facebook page. Or tune in on YouTube or Twitter.

The book tells the stories of 10 current Compton Cowboys who learned to ride as children in what was then known as the Compton Jr. Posse. The riding program was established in the mid-1980s as an alternative for young people at risk of gang violence and other perils of the streets.

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“I always wondered why I never learned about black cowboys in any of my elementary school classes in Huntington Park, a city in Southeast Los Angeles,” Thompson-Hernández writes in the book’s prologue. “The only cowboys we learned about were white. We were taught that they rode through trails, herded cattle, and occasionally got into gunfights with bandits and Native Americans. Even Mrs. Sanders, a black woman and my favorite teacher, never once mentioned black cowboys.

Author Walter Thompson-Hernández and Times reporter Angel Jennings
Author Walter Thompson-Hernández and Times reporter Angel Jennings discussed the world of the new Compton Cowboys, a group of Black riders who find healing and hope on the back of a horse.
(Ken Kwok/Los Angeles Times)

“The history of the West until that point had appeared exclusively white. Little did I know there were groups in nearby Compton who were actively trying to reinsert black cowboys into the history books.”

The Compton Cowboys joined a caravan of motorcycles and demonstrators as part of a growing national movement to end police brutality and systemic racism.

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