Walter Thompson-Hernández is a Los Angeles-bred multimedia reporter who travels the world asking what it means to belong. He began his career with the New York Times in 2018 and covers emerging sub-cultures across the world. Inspired by his viral New York Times article, Thompson-Hernández tells the compelling story of 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 his debut book The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland (William Morrow).
In The Compton Cowboys 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. 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. Today, the cowboys keep the program running to help other children do the same. Black cowboys are a part of history that has been all but forgotten, but the Compton Cowboys have made it their mission to carry on the tradition and be role models for their community.
Through keynotes and presentations that spark conversation on identity, culture, and the idea of community, Thompson-Hernández offers the audience a lens to a world outside the one they live and know.
Thompson-Hernández’s writing, photographs, and videos have appeared and been featured by The New York Times, NPR, VICE, BBC, CNN, Fusion, Remezcla, The Guardian, The Root, Huffington Post, among others. He attended the University of Portland and received his Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. Before working for the New York Times, he was enrolled in the U.C.L.A. Chicano Studies Ph.D. program.
Praise for The Compton Cowboys:
“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 bestselling author of Hidden Figures
“Walter Thompson-Hernández has written a book for the ages: a profound and moving account of what it means to be black in America that is awe inspiring in its truth-telling and limitless in its empathy. Here is an American epic of black survival and creativity, of terrible misfortune and everyday resilience, of grace, redemption and, yes, cowboys.”
-- Junot Díaz, Pulitzer prize-winning author of This is How You Lose Her