The State of California has returned Bruce’s Beach to its rightful owners- an African American family. The beachfront property had been usurped in 1924 by the misuse of the provisions of “eminent domain” from the Bruce family that had constructed a resort there for other African-American families who till then did not have access to such facilities due to segregation.
Willa and Charles Bruce had purchased the property located at 26th Street and Highland Avenue for USD 1225. But they were constantly harassed by members of racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and in 1924, not only was this property taken away from the Bruce family, they were also prevented from purchasing any land in the area, that is now known as Manhattan Beach.
California governor Gavin Newsom paved the way for return of the property by signing Senate Bill 796 on Thursday. The text of the bill reads, “This bill would exclude specified property located in Manhattan State Beach, commonly known as Bruce’s Beach, from the requirement that the property be used only for public recreation and beach purposes in perpetuity and from those specified restrictions. The bill would authorize the property to be sold, transferred, or encumbered upon terms and conditions determined by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles to be in the best interest of the county and the general public. The bill would require the Director of Parks and Recreation, on or before December 31, 2021, to execute an amendment to a specified deed that incorporates the exclusion of that property from that requirement and those restrictions.”
After signing the bill Governor Newsom said, “The Bruce family was an entrepreneurial family that had built a business and owned this land only to see it taken away under the pretext of eminent domain because of one reason – the color of their skin.”
Anthony Bruce, the great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce was present at the ceremony along with another family member, Patricia Bruce, who was quoted as saying, “It is the perfect day to right a wrong.” Kavon Ward, an activist who has been advocating for the restitution and restoration of Bruce’s beach to the Bruce family was also present at the occasion and promised to continue the good fight for restitution of lands to other black families.
The move to return the property to the Bruce family is being seen as an important first step in addressing centuries of systemic racism.
*Feature image courtesy Twitter Account of Gavin Newsom.