Bruce's Beach
An aerial view of Bruce's Beach at sunset. (Allen J Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock)

California Legislature Votes To Return Bruce’s Beach to Descendants of Black Family It Was Stolen From

In what many are calling the ultimate example of how reparations can and should work in America, the state of California has moved to return a popular beachfront property in the city of Manhattan Beach to descendants of the Black couple it was originally stolen from more than a century ago.

As we detailed in April 2021, Charles and Willa Bruce owned a popular beach resort back in 1912 situated along California’s scenic Manhattan Beach. But after years of harassment from white neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan, plus strict racial segregation laws, the city decided to “reclaim” the property through eminent domain laws, paying the couple a fraction of what the land was worth. Brokenhearted at the loss of the picturesque life, the couple left the area, and each passed away within five years of losing their land.

That land, which has since been dubbed Bruce’s Beach, sat dormant for several years following its seizure. Today, the property includes a park, parking lot and lifeguard training facility. It also no longer belongs to Manhattan Beach after being transferred to the state and then to Los Angeles County in 1995.

Soon, it may no longer be owned by the state either, with the California government officially voting in a special session to give the land back to the descendants of the Bruce family.

Don Thompson of the Associated Press reported that California lawmakers unanimously voted to return the prime beachfront property to the Bruce family.

Thompson reported that after Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the land in 1912, they “built the first West Coast resort for Black people during an era when racial segregation barred them from many beaches. The couple built a lodge, café, dance hall and dressing tents with bathing suits for rent.”

“Bruce’s Beach became a place where Black families traveled from far and wide to be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a day at the beach,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who has been a long-time supporter of the plan to return the land that the county seized.

Following approval by the California legislature, the bill now moves to the desk of California Gov. Gavin Newsom and county supervisors for approval. Lawmakers in the city of Manhattan Beach formally condemned the seizure of the land back in April.

Speaking to the AP, Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford said the bill will “finally do the right thing, to undo a wrong committed by the city of Manhattan Beach and aided by the state and the county.”

“[It] represents economic and historic justice and is a model of what reparations can truly look like,” Bradford said.

 

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