• Compton Chamber Admin

Today’s Compton is in the process of rebuilding its commercial and industrial sectors.

From its beginnings in the late 1860s, Compton has always been a place that has tested its residents, whether through natural disaster or societal ills.


From its beginnings in the late 1860s, Compton has always been a place that has tested its residents, whether through natural disaster or societal ills.


The first settlers in the region arrived here in desperate straits. They came from Stockton, where the Gold Rush was going bust, looking for a place to put down stakes and make a living outside the collapsing gold mining industry.

They set up camp near the halfway point of the stretch of the L.A. River that ran from the pueblo to sea, a swampy region crisscrossed by creeks and subject to floods, one of which promptly deluged the nascent settlement soon after its founding.


This less-than-propitious beginning, combined with the fact that the nearest general stores were a hard 10-mile ride away and, as the city’s official history puts it, “gathering firewood required a three-day trip to the mountains near Pasadena,” might have put off most settlers.


The founders of the city of Compton, however, were not to be dissuaded by the hostility of the natural environment or lack of local resources. They gritted their teeth and set about building a town that incorporated as a city in 1888, just the eighth in Los Angeles County.


Despite the regular flooding that swamped the city as recently as 1962, Compton thrived in the 1920s, an era that saw the opening of the Compton Airport and Compton Junior College, and the growth of a bustling downtown business and retail district.


Much of that progress was undone in 1933, as the Long Beach earthquake devastated Compton, collapsing buildings across the city and killing nearly 120 across Southern California. Again, residents rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt.

In the late 1960s, Compton began to face perhaps its biggest challenge as the city, which had become home to many African Americans following the reversal of Southern California's racially discriminatory housing laws, began to lose its middle-class residents to nearby communities such as Carson.


A general lack of economic opportunity caused by the deindustrialization of South Los Angeles, combined with the devastating effects of the crack cocaine epidemic, led to a skyrocketing crime rate in the 1980s and ’90s.

Out of that turmoil arose one of the most important musical movements in American history, as such groundbreaking rap artists as N.W.A began to document the conditions in Compton.


The success of those pioneering acts laid the groundwork for a string of breakout rappers who have emerged from the city, a tradition carried on by contemporary greats such as Grammy Award-winning Kendrick Lamar.


Today’s Compton, while still facing economic headwinds, enjoys a much-reduced crime rate and is in the process of rebuilding its commercial and industrial sectors.



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