L.A. County Votes to Return Beach Property Taken From Black Family Nearly 100 Years Ago

Bruce's Beach was purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, a Black couple who turned the property into a seaside resort for Black residents.

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Bruce’s Beach will be returned to its rightful owners.

The seaside property, located in Manhattan Beach, California, was previously owned by Willa and Charles Bruce—a Black couple who purchased the beach for $1,225 in 1912. The family would turn the land into a full-fledged resort for Black residents during a time when many beaches were racially segregated. They offered visitors everything from dressing tents and a lodge to a dance hall and a cafe. 

According to CNN, the Bruce’s endured years of vandalism and acts of violence, including an attack by the Ku Klux Klan. But despite the harassment, the family continued to operate the beach until 1924, when the city seized the land under eminent domain. Officials reportedly condemned the beach and surrounding areas, claiming the city had plans to build a city park; however, the park wasn’t built until 1960, following concerns that evictees would take legal action if the land continued to sit vacant. The property was transferred to LA County in 1995.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor voted unanimously to return Bruce’s Beach back to the descendants of the original owners. The land is reportedly now worth $20 million. 

“All the terror that is still in our hearts regarding these criminal acts that were perpetrated against innocent people of our family, it’s important for people to understand, more so than the money that was lost. We lost our family to this,” family spokesperson Duane Yellow Feather Shepard told CNN. “This is one step toward justice.”

The family said they plan to lease the property back to the county for $413,000 a month. Anthony Bruce, the great- great-grandson of the Bruces, said their agreement allows them to sell the land back to LA County for no more than $20 million.

“For us as a family, this had a wonderful beginning. And then it turned into a tragic story for my family,” Anthony Bruce told NBC News. “Back in the day, prejudice was rampant. And unfortunately my family was the victim of a hate crime and the prejudice that was around during those times. So, now that this is finally taking place, for us as a family, we are greatly relieved, and we are so thankful that this has made such an impact on our nation.”

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