A member of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Philadelphia.

The little-known history of the Black 'Concrete Cowboy'

Updated 9:45 AM ET, Sun April 11, 2021

(CNN)In Philadelphia, a Black cowboy in a white undershirt and a gold chain wrangles a wayward horse. Teens pile hay and clean up manure near brick row houses. Men and women ride cantering horses down a city street as cars pass by.

These are scenes from "Concrete Cowboy," a new Netflix movie starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin. But they're also the reality in parts of north Philly, where the movie was filmed and a subculture of urban Black cowboys has existed for more than a century.
"It's a real community that exists right now and has been part of Philadelphia ... and other urban cities around America for over 100 years," Elba said on the "Today" show earlier this month. "These communities had these beautiful animals as part of their lifeblood. And when the motorcars came, the Black folk kept the horses as part of the fabric of their communities."
The movie follows the story of a troubled teen sent by his mother to spend a summer with his estranged father, played by Elba, and his fellow horsemen in Philadelphia. The community embraces the youth and gives him positive role models and a sense of purpose. It's based on a novel, "Ghetto Cowboy" by Gregory Neri, and inspired by the Fletcher Street riders -- a real-life group that stables and rides horses in the neighborhood.
There's a long but little-known history of Black cowboys in the American West. It's a tradition that lives on today in many inner cities across the US, where teens build character -- and stay out of trouble -- by learning horsemanship.
Idris Elba as Harp and Caleb McLaughlin as his son Cole in Netflix's "Concrete Cowboy."

Art imitates life on Fletcher Street

Fletcher Street is populated by stables and Black equestrians who've cared for horses and provided lessons to neighborhood children for a century.
One real-life rider, Jamil Prattis, plays Cole's mentor in the movie and is a fixture on Fletcher Street. He started riding nearly a decade ago after he followed a group of c