The California beach returned to the Black family nearly a century later | Black Lives Matter News
The California beach was seized from its black owners by city officials in the 1920s, in a move deemed racist.
A black-owned beach in the United States that served as a rare vacation spot for black guests in segregated California, before it was seized by local authorities in the 1920s, has been returned to descendants from its original owners.
Activists and local lawmakers have long said authorities’ decision in 1924 to seize the Manhattan Beach property in Los Angeles County, which belonged to black couple Charles and Willa Bruce, was motivated by racism.
In a ceremony on Wednesday, Los Angeles County officials returned the main deed to Marcus and Derrick Bruce, the property owners’ great-grandsons, in what they described as the turnaround of a century-old racial injustice.
“It’s surreal and almost like being transported to the other side of the known universe,” said Anthony Bruce, a great-great-grandson of the Bruce couple. “I just want to make sure I don’t lose sight of what Charles and Willa’s dream was.”
Community activist Kavon Ward, of Justice for Bruce’s Beach, who led efforts to return the land, watched as the crowd handed over.
“It’s a win, but we deserve more wins,” she said. “And I’m going to help every black family I can try to get back the land that was stolen from them.”
Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the sprawling 650-square-meter (7,000-square-foot) property in 1912, but faced racial harassment from white neighbors as they established a resort for black guests.
Twelve years after making the purchase, the Manhattan Beach City Council condemned the property and took the land through eminent domain. Ownership was then transferred to the State of California in 1948. In 1995, the state transferred ownership to Los Angeles County.
Janice Hahn, a member of the County Board of Supervisors, learned of the history of the property and began the complex process of returning the property to the Bruce heirs after consulting with county attorneys.
The process required state legislation and the vote of the County Board of Supervisors, as well as the task of identifying the rightful heirs.
Hahn said she hopes the seemingly unprecedented process will have a ripple effect.
“Today we send a message to all governments in this country facing this same challenge: this work is no longer unprecedented,” Hahn told Reuters news agency at the ceremony.
Under an agreement with the Bruces, Los Angeles County will lease the beach, which houses a lifeguard training facility, for an annual rent of $413,000 plus all operating and maintenance costs. The county also retains the right to purchase the land outright for up to $20 million.
“That’s the act here,” Derrick Bruce said at the ceremony. “And that means a lot to us because our ancestors struggled a lot to accumulate enough wealth to buy land here on this beach in Manhattan.”