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Multimillion-dollar beach property taken from Black owners in Jim Crow era is cleared to be returned

Almost 100 years after this land was taken from its black owners, authorities have finally given it back to the family to whom it rightfully belongs. The land in question used to be known as Bruce’s beach and was one of the only beaches that black families were allowed to go to during segregation. White supremacists and Klu Klux members had the land taken away from them in 1924. Finally, the family has it back. (1)

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Beach Property Returned To Black Family Nearly 100 Years After White Supremacists Took It Away

In 1912, black couple Charles and Willa Bruce bought a stretch of prime Southern California beachfront real estate. The place was called Bruce’s beach, complete with change rooms and even a cafe. It was one of the only places in the cities that black families could go to enjoy themselves and the California lifestyle. Most other beaches in the city barred them from entering because they were black. (2)

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 Throughout their years in operation, their white neighbors and the Klu Klux Klan harassed and threatened them more and more. They posted “no trespassing” signs on their property, slashed the tires of black beachgoers to discourage them from coming, and even attempted to set fire to the property. Eventually, they successfully burned down the home of a black family that lived nearby.

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The scare tactics didn’t work on the Bruces, so eventually, Manhattan Beach stepped in and declared eminent domain in the area in 1924. They paid the couple about $14,125 for the land, which was not even close to what it was worth, and then promptly took it away.

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family given land back which was wrongfully taken from them.
Anthony Bruce, the great-great-grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, at a press conference where the ocean-front land was returned to the Bruce family. Getty Images

What Happened To Bruce’s Beach

The day the city took ownership of the land was a sad day for the black community of Los Angeles. Now, there were even fewer places where they could go to have the same privilege as white people of enjoying the beach on a nice day. What’s worse, the city left the land vacant for decades. Now, the area is a grassy park with a lifeguard training facility and a parking lot.

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Another important change, however, was that in 1995, the ownership of the land was transferred from Manhattan Beach to Los Angeles county. When finally the county tried to return the land to the Bruce family, however, they came across some challenges.

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The Law Was Not On Their Side

The city understands how impactful having the loss of this land was for the Bruce family and the black community. It is for this reason that they began the process of trying to return the land to whom it rightfully belonged.

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“If the Bruces had been allowed to keep the property that they purchased, the impact that would have had on generations of not only Bruce family descendants but the other African Americans who began to buy parcels surrounding Bruce’s Beach,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

This process, however, turned out to be more difficult than they expected. The state eminent law was preventing them from returning the land. They are trying to figure out what loopholes they need to go through to overturn it. Also, they need to identify which members of the Bruce family are the rightful heirs.

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“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and the law today will give it back,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

State senator Bradford explained how this story, while horrible, is unfortunately not unique. He mentioned the countless black families and businesses that the KKK threatened for simply using their own property. He says that this is what reparations look like. While we can’t take away what people did in the past, we can right their wrongs now. We can’t make up for the years of abuse endured by the black community. Neither can we make up for what they lost when white supremacists took this property away from them. We can, however, at least give back to them what we wrongly took in the first place. A spokesperson for the family says they are hopeful that soon the land will be in the rightful owner’s hands.

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“I am hopeful that the people in California will see the importance of trying to right this wrong,” they stated.

Keep Reading: Meet Leydy Pech, the Mayan Woman Who Stopped Monsanto and Won the ‘Nobel For the Environment’

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Sources

  1. Multimillion-dollar beach property taken from Black owners in Jim Crow era is cleared to be returned.” CNN. Cheri Mossburg. October 1, 2021.
  2. Multimillion-dollar beach property taken from Black owners in Jim Crow era is cleared to be returned.” Wbal Tv. Cheri Mossburg. October 1, 2021.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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