*In July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to return a stretch of beachfront land in Southern California to the descendants of a Black couple who purchased the land 97 years ago. On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing ownership of the land to be transferred to the heirs of a couple.
Willa and Charles Bruce built the resort for Black people in the early 1900s. Here’s the backstory from ABC News:
Willa and Charles Bruce purchased land on Manhattan Beach in 1912, making them among the first Black landowners in the city. But 12 years later they were forced off their property as it was seized by the city. The Bruces bought the first of two ocean-view lots for $1,225, a property that could now be worth millions. They built a resort known as Bruce’s Beach to serve Black residents, making it one of the few beaches Black residents could use due to segregation. The Bruces and their customers were harassed and threatened by their white neighbors, including the Ku Klux Klan, the county board of supervisors said in a news release.
The city of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain in 1924 to force the couple off their land. The property was seized in 1929 and remained vacant for decades.
“This was an opportunity for a leisure business to provide services to African Americans who wanted to come to the beach,” said historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson. “They would be less harassed in this area because there was this African American business that could provide them with, you know, something to drink, or a place to change their clothes.”
Then jealous whites in the community started trying to run them out.
“So even while the business was successful, from day one, they were harassed with tactics to chase them out of the area,” Jefferson explained.
“The city said that it was taking this land– the eminent domain to build a park,” Jefferson said. “And the Bruces… and some of the other families… fought this effort, but they weren’t successful in the fight.”
Over the summer, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided the land will be returned to Willa and Charles’ descendants.
“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and the law today will give it back,” said County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who led a government push to transfer the land, News Nation Now reports.