Bruce's Beach
This April 8, 2021 file photo, shows a monument at Bruce's Beach in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom was expected to sign legislation Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, to enable the transfer of ownership of prime Southern California beachfront property to heirs of a Black couple who built a small resort for Black people in the early 1900s but were harassed and finally stripped of the land by local city leaders. (Dean Musgrove/The Orange County Register via AP, File)
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A section of Bruce’s Beach in California is being returned to the Black family who originally owned the land. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that confirms the land will now belong to descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce, who lost the land to eminent domain in the 1920s.

Meanwhile, at the bill signing, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn noted, “They used the law to commit a crime.” 

Prior to the legalized takeover, the Ku Klux Klan tried to burn down the property. When patrons arrived, they were harassed by White neighbors, with fake signs placed on the property saying no parking. Their cars were often vandalized. 

Bruces created thriving vacation destination for Black people

Mr. and Mrs. Bruce, a married couple, once owned the ocean front land and created a thriving hotel for people of color. The land was then taken over by the town of Manhattan Beach in order to build a public community park. 

Bruce's Beach

At the bill signing, Governor Newsom said, “I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them. We haven’t always had a proud past.”

The land was purchased by the Bruce family in 1912, and became home to a lodge, cafe, dance hall, and place to rent swimsuits for a trip to the beach. However, systemic racism led to the family’s downfall. 

Some city councilors still oppose land transfer

The Bruce family descendants are thrilled with the Governor’s decision, and spoke during Thursday’s ceremony. Anthony Bruce, Mr. and Mrs. Bruces’ great-great-grandson, said a prayer aloud, confirming “The Bruces have found mercy in the unfailing love of Jesus Christ. I want to thank everyone who is here today,” he said.

But the fight is not quite over yet. Council members in Manhattan Beach oppose the land transfer, although a reason was not given why. The final transfer will not happen until an agreement is reached about the taxes on the land, so that the family is not hit with a land tax bill each year. 

However, Governor Newsome noted the planned land transfer is a step forward in recognizing the harm done to the Bruce family, and the consequences of eminent domain. “This is about something profoundly more impactful,” said the Governor. “It’s about economic empowerment.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...