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Publisher's Summary

"Thompson-Hernández's portrayal of Compton's black cowboys broadens our perception of Compton's young black residents, and connects the Compton Cowboys to the historical legacy of African Americans in the west. An eye-opening, moving book." (Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times best-selling author of Hidden Figures)

A rising New York Times reporter tells the compelling story of the Compton Cowboys, a group of African American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of Black cowboys in the heart of one of America’s most notorious cities.

In Compton, California, 10 Black riders on horseback cut an unusual profile, their cowboy hats tilted against the hot Los Angeles sun. They are the Compton Cowboys, their small ranch one of the very last in a formerly semirural area of the city that has been home to African American horse riders for decades. To most people, Compton is known only as the home of rap greats NWA and Kendrick Lamar, hyped in the media for its seemingly intractable gang violence. But in 1988, Mayisha Akbar founded the Compton Jr. Posse to provide local youth with a safe alternative to the streets, one that connected them with the rich legacy of Black cowboys in American culture. From Mayisha’s youth organization came the Cowboys of today: Black men and women from Compton for whom the ranch and the horses provide camaraderie, respite from violence, healing from trauma, and recovery from incarceration. 

The Cowboys include Randy, Mayisha’s nephew, faced with the daunting task of remaking the Cowboys for a new generation; Anthony, former drug dealer and inmate, now a family man and mentor; Keiara, a single mother pursuing her dream of winning a national rodeo championship; and a tight clan of 20-somethings - Kenneth, Keenan, Chris, and Tre - for whom horses bring the freedom, protection, and status that often elude the young Black men of Compton. 

The Compton Cowboys is a story about trauma and transformation, race and identity, compassion, and ultimately, belonging. Walter Thompson-Hernández paints a unique and unexpected portrait of this city, pushing back against stereotypes to reveal an urban community in all its complexity, tragedy, and triumph.

©2020 Walter Thompson-Hernandez (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Compton Cowboys

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Black Cowboy stories need to be told more.

What an inspirational story. Members of my family rode horses and performed in the rodeo set. This story motivated me to know more. The author balanced the dynamic lives of the Cowboys/Cowgirls with the central theme--the love of their horses. Good stuff.

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great subject not so great listen

struggled to finish. I expected to hear the cowboys point of view instead it's the journalists narrative.

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terrific!

as a horse lover and former Angelina, the improbable story of cowboys in the city was irresistible. the depth of story-telling drew me in, and the love of horses described felt familiar and authentic. thanks for sharing their story!

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Great story and insight

Growing up in Southern California I had always been a horse lover and understood what they brought to my life. I recently was introduced to the CC via CBS Sunday. I had no idea that this wonderful group existed. This book is well written and I enjoyed hearing the author at the end of the story. Long live the Compton Cowboys. Giddy up!

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Saddle up partners!

There was more to this book than I imagined before I read it. It’s multilayered and Walter’s descriptions of the events and experiences of the Compton Cowboys feels familial. 💕 Support brown and black voices!

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  • 05-29-20

Awesome!

loved this book. I am from Compton and this took me back to my days living on Alondra and going to Walton Jrunior High, walking through the Richland area and seeing the brothers on horseback almost everyday. This was in 63-64. The first time I was ever shot at was in that area. just saying.

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Finally a book for my city

Compton Cowboys is somehow a window into a wholly unique world while a trip through my own childhood in Southeast LA. It’s dynamic writing and compassion is a vibe that we all can get behind about survival and evolution.