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City of Compton
Charter city
Compton martin luther king monument.jpg HSY- Los Angeles Metro, Compton, Platform View.jpg
Compton High School billboard.jpg Entering compton.jpg
Clockwise from top: King Memorial, Compton train platform, Compton obelisk, Compton High School
Official seal of City of Compton
Seal
Nickname(s): Hub City
Motto: Birthing a New Compton
Location of Compton in Los Angeles County, California
Location of Compton in Los Angeles County, California
Country United States
State California
County Los Angeles
Incorporated May 11, 1888
Area
 • Total 10.116 sq mi (26.202 km2)
 • Land 10.012 sq mi (25.932 km2)
 • Water 0.104 sq mi (0.270 km2)  1.03%
Elevation 69 ft (21 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)
 • Total 96,455
 • Estimate (2013) 97,877
 • Density 9,534.9/sq mi (3,681.21/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 90220–90224
Area codes 310/424
FIPS code 06-15044
GNIS feature IDs 1652689, 2410213
Website www.comptoncity.org

Compton is a city in southern Los Angeles County, California, United States, situated south of downtown Los Angeles. Compton is one of the oldest cities in the county and on May 11, 1888, was the eighth city to incorporate. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 96,455. It is known as the "Hub City" due to its geographic centrality in Los Angeles County. Neighborhoods in Compton include Sunny Cove, Leland, Downtown Compton, and Richland Farms. The city is generally a working class city with some middle-class neighborhoods, and is home to a relatively young community, at an average 25 years of age, compared to the American median age of 35 (2010 data).

History

Compton-1914
Main Street of Compton, 1914

In 1784, the Spanish Crown deeded a tract of over 75,000 acres (300 km2) to Juan Jose Dominguez in this area. The tract was named Rancho San Pedro. Dominguez's name was later applied to the Dominguez Hills community south of Compton. The tree that marked the original northern boundary of the rancho still stands at the corner of Poppy and Short streets.

In 1867, Griffith Dickenson Compton led a group of 30 pioneers to the area. These families had traveled by wagon train south from Stockton, California in search of ways to earn a living other than in the rapid exhaustion of gold fields. Originally named Gibsonville, after one of the tract owners, it was later called Comptonville. However, to avoid confusion with the Comptonville located in Yuba County, the name was shortened to Compton. Compton's earliest settlers were faced with terrible hardships as they farmed the land in bleak weather to get by with just the barest subsistence. The weather continued to be harsh, rainy and cold, and fuel was difficult to find. To gather firewood it was necessary to travel to mountains close to Pasadena. The round trip took almost a week. Many in the Compton party wanted to relocate to a friendlier climate and settle down, but as there were two general stores within traveling distance—one in the pueblo of Los Angeles, the other in Wilmington—they eventually decided to stay put.

By 1887, the settlers realized it was time to make improvements to the local government. A series of town meetings were held to discuss incorporation of their little town. Griffith D. Compton donated his land to incorporate and create the city of Compton in 1889, but he did stipulate that a certain acreage be zoned solely for agriculture and named Richland Farms. In January 1888, a petition supporting the incorporation of Compton was forwarded to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who in turn forwarded the petition to the State Legislature. On May 11, 1888 the city of Compton was incorporated with a population of 500 people. The first City Council meeting was held on May 14, 1888.

The ample residential lots of Richland Farms gave residents enough space to raise a family, and food to feed them, along with building a barn, and caring for livestock. The farms attracted the black families who had begun migrating from the rural South in the 1950s, and there they found their 'home away from home' in this small community. Compton couldn't support large-scale agricultural business, but it did give the residents the opportunity to work the land for their families and for the welfare of the new community.

The 1920s saw the opening of the Compton Airport. Compton Junior College was founded and city officials moved to a new City Hall on Alameda Street. On March 10, 1933, a destructive earthquake caused many casualties: schools were destroyed and there was major damage to the central business district. While it would eventually be home to a large black population, in 1930 there was only one black resident. In the late 1940s, middle class blacks began moving into the area, mostly on the west side. Compton grew quickly in the 1950s. One reason for this was Compton was close to Watts, where there was an established black community. The eastern side of the city was predominately white until the 1970s. Despite being located in the middle of a major metropolitan area, thanks to the legacy of Griffith D. Compton, there still remains one small pocket of agriculture from its earliest years.

During the 1950s and 1960s, after the Supreme Court declared all racially exclusive housing covenants (title deeds) unconstitutional in the case Shelley v. Kraemer, the first black families moved to the area. Compton's growing black population was still largely ignored and neglected by the city's elected officials. Centennial High School was finally built to accommodate a burgeoning student population. At one time, the City Council even discussed dismantling the Compton Police Department in favor of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to exclude blacks from law enforcement jobs. A black man first ran for City Council in 1958, and the first black councilman was elected in 1961.

Compton-1920
Aerial view of Compton, 1920

In 1969, Douglas Dollarhide became the mayor, the first black man elected mayor of any metropolitan city in California. Two blacks and one Mexican-American were also elected to the local school board. Four years later, in 1973, Doris A. Davis defeated Dollarhide's bid for re-election to become the first female black mayor of a metropolitan American city. By the early 1970s, the city had one of the largest concentrations of blacks in the country with over ninety percent. In 2013, Aja Brown, age 31, became the city's youngest mayor to date.

For many years, Compton was a much sought-after suburb for the black middle class of Los Angeles. This past affluence is reflected in the area's appearance—Compton's streets are lined with relatively spacious and attractive single family houses. However, several factors have contributed to Compton's gradual decline. One of the most significant factors was a steady erosion of its tax base, something that was already sparse due to limited commercial properties. In later years, there were middle-class whites who fled to the newly incorporated cities of Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Paramount and Norwalk in the late 1950s. These nearby communities remained largely white early on despite integration. This white middle class flight accelerated following the 1965 Watts Riots and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

By the late 1960s, middle-class and upper-middle-class blacks found other areas more attractive to them. Some were unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County such as Ladera Heights, View Park and Windsor Hills, and others were cities such as Inglewood and, particularly, Carson. Carson was significant because it had successfully thwarted attempts at annexation by neighboring Compton. The city opted instead for incorporation in 1968, which is notable because its black population was actually more affluent than its white population. As a newer city, it also offered more favorable tax rates and lower crime.

Geography

Compton sign
Highway sign for Compton

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.1 square miles (26 km2). 10.0 square miles (26 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (1.03%) is water.

It is bordered by the unincorporated Willowbrook on the north and northwest, the unincorporated West Compton on the west, the city of Carson on the southwest, the unincorporated Rancho Dominguez on the south, the city of Long Beach on the southeast, the city of Paramount and the unincorporated East Compton on the east, and by the city of Lynwood on the northeast.

East Compton

East Compton, also known as East Rancho Dominguez, is a mostly industrial unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP). The population was 15,135 according to the 2010 Census. East Rancho Dominguez is an accepted city name according to the USPS, and shares the 90221 ZIP Code with Compton. Its sphere of influence is the city of Compton, which has tried to annex East Rancho Dominguez, but business and property owners in the area have opposed the annexation.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 160
1890 636
1910 922
1920 1,478 60.3%
1930 12,516 746.8%
1940 16,198 29.4%
1950 47,991 196.3%
1960 71,812 49.6%
1970 78,547 9.4%
1980 81,350 3.6%
1990 90,454 11.2%
2000 93,493 3.4%
2010 96,455 3.2%
Est. 2015 98,462 2.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010

The 2010 United States Census reported that Compton had a population of 96,455. The population density was 9,534.3 people per square mile (3,681.2/km²). The racial makeup of Compton was 31,688 (32.9%) Black, 24,942 (25.9%) White (0.8% Non-Hispanic White), 655 (0.7%) Native American, 292 (0.3%) Asian, 718 (0.7%) Pacific Islander, 34,914 (36.2%) from other races, and 3,246 (3.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 62,669 persons (65.0%).

The Census reported that 95,700 people (99.2% of the population) lived in households, 643 (0.7%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 112 (0.1%) were institutionalized.

There were 23,062 households, out of which 13,376 (58.0%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 10,536 (45.7%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 6,373 (27.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 2,354 (10.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,725 (7.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 158 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,979 households (12.9%) were made up of individuals and 1,224 (5.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.15. There were 19,263 families (83.5% of all households); the average family size was 4.41.

The age distribution of the population was as follows: 31,945 people (33.1%) under the age of 18, 11,901 people (12.3%) aged 18 to 24, 26,573 people (27.5%) aged 25 to 44, 18,838 people (19.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 7,198 people (7.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28.0 years. For every 100 females there were 94.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.

There were 24,523 housing units at an average density of 2,424.0 per square mile (935.9/km²), of which 12,726 (55.2%) were owner-occupied, and 10,336 (44.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.9%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.9%. 53,525 people (55.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 42,175 people (43.7%) lived in rental housing units.

During 2009–2013, Compton has a median household income of $42,953, with 26.3% of the population living below the federal poverty line.

"Gifts for Guns"

From 1999 to 2004, Compton's murder rate averaged at around 49 murders per 100,000 annually. In 2005 the city experienced an almost 45% increase in murders, although the annual numbers had dropped significantly in the prior three years. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department began the annual "Gifts for Guns" program within that same year where the citizens of Compton were given the option to turn in firearms and receive a $50–$100 check for various goods in an effort to combat gun violence. People have turned in about 7,000 guns over the last few years, KABC-TV reported. The program's success has prompted the LASD to expand the program county-wide.

Arts and culture

Logo N.W.A grafit
N.W.A graffiti

Some episodes of the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air took place in Compton because Will Smith's friend, DJ Jazzy Jeff lived there. Many rap artists' careers started in Compton, including N.W.A (Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella), Coolio, DJ Quik, Nishant, Jeeves, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, YG, and Compton's Most Wanted. In their lyrics, they rap about the streets and their lives in Compton and the areas nearby. Many well-known NBA players attended high school in the city as well. Arron Afflalo attended Centennial High School; DeMar DeRozan attended Compton High School; and Tayshaun Prince, Tyson Chandler, Brandon Jennings, Cedric Ceballos and the late Dennis Johnson attended Dominguez High. Actor/comedian Paul Rodriguez Sr. also attended Dominguez High.

Although Compton was formerly thought of as a primarily black community, this has greatly changed over the years and now Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the city. A possible reason for this misconception is, despite the shift in population, that many black professional athletes and rappers are originally from Compton. Blacks continue to dominate local politics, holding most elected positions in the city. Although an inner suburb of Los Angeles, Compton has seen an increase of middle-class residents in the last few years, due to its affordable housing despite the portrayals of Compton in the media, which are typically exaggerated. With the influx of immigrants and the demographic shift in ethnic population, it was after the 2000 U.S. Census that Latinos were recognized as the majority.

Compton has a growing Pacific Islander, Filipino, and Vietnamese community. West Compton and unincorporated Willowbrook have more middle class blacks than the central city (west of Alameda St.) and unincorporated East Compton, the latter of which has a higher number of Hispanics and working-class blacks. Lower-income subsections on Compton Boulevard have many businesses owned by Latinos.

Compton has been referred to on numerous occasions in gang affiliation, gangsta rap and g-funk songs, especially in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, and so has attained an association not only with gang violence and crime, but with hip hop music as well. The city is known as the home of many famous rappers. (see list List of people from Compton, California#Arts and entertainment) Compton has evolved into a younger community; the median age of people living in Compton was 25 at the time of the last full census survey in 2010; the United States average at the time was 35.3.

Compton is home to the Compton Cricket Club, the only all American-born exhibition cricket team. Its founder, Ted Hayes, said, "The aim of playing cricket is to teach people how to respect themselves and respect authority so they stop killing each other."

Historical landmarks

Angeles Abbey Cemetery contains examples of Byzantine, Moorish and Spanish architectural styles. The cemetery was built in 1923 and survived the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

Compton Airport opened on May 10, 1924. Located on Alondra Boulevard, the airport offers flight training, has accommodations for more than 200 planes, and is home to several aviation clubs.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: This Civic Center monument is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is surrounded by the Civic Center, Compton Court House, Compton City Hall, and Compton Public Library.

The Eagle Tree is a natural boundary marker of Rancho San Pedro dating to 1858. It contains a historic marker and plaque placed by the Daughters of the Golden West in 1947.

The 'Heritage House' was built in 1869 and is a State Historic Landmark. The oldest house in Compton, it was restored as a tribute to early settlers. It is an important landmark of Compton's rich history. At the corner of Myrrh and Willowbrook near the Civic Center Plaza, the Heritage House is a rustic-looking home that will eventually have a museum detailing early life in Compton. For now it shows the stark difference between the simple life of the 19th century and the fast-paced urban environment of the 21st.

Woodlawn Cemetery is the final resting place of 18 Civil War veterans. It has been a Los Angeles County Historic Landmark since 1946.

City sites

  • The Major League Baseball Academy is a youth baseball academy providing free baseball and softball instruction to Southern California youth.
  • Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum is a non-traditional compilation of a living interactive museum, after-school programs, gang intervention programs and flight school.

Sister cities

On January 19, 2010, the Compton City Council passed a resolution creating a sister cities program to be managed as a chapter of the Compton Chamber of Commerce. The city has established partnerships with three cities:

  • Nigeria Onitsha, Anambra, Nigeria (2010)
  • Samoa Apia, Samoa (2010)
  • Bulgaria Targovishte, Bulgaria (2010)
  • Russia Alexandrov, Vladimir Oblast, Russia (2015)

The city is also looking to add sister partnerships with Yanga, Mexico and Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Images for kids


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