Reparations milestone: California returns land to Black family

Manhattan Beach, Calif .

A century ago, the white leaders in a Southern California town robbed a Black family their beachfront property and heritage.

Victims of Willa Bruce and Charles Bruce, including their great-great-grandson, returned to Manhattan Beach to witness Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law that allowed the property’s ownership to be returned to the family.

This move is a significant milestone in the fight to get reparations for land seized from black people.

“There’s a lot of families that are waiting to see their land restored to them,” Patricia Bruce (a cousin to Willa and Charles Bruce) told The Associated Press.

In the midst of rampant forced segregation 1912,, the Bruces created the first West Coast resort to accommodate Black residents. It was located on one of Southern California’s most famous beaches, surrounded by multimillion-dollar houses. The resort included a cafe, a dance hall and tented accommodation.

The Bruces, and their guests were subject to constant harassment and racism. The resort was even threatened with being burned. Manhattan Beach City Council used eminent domain in order to seize the property from Bruces in the 1920s. The land was supposedly intended for park use.

The land lay unutilized for many years before it was finally transferred to the state in 1948. It was moved to Los Angeles County in 1995, for use as a beach operation. The restrictions on the sale or transfer of the property were imposed by the state. This law could not be changed without a new state law.

The legislation was unanimously passed by the state legislature to enable the beginning of the complicated legal process for transferring the ownership of Bruce’s Beach.

” The journey was not easy,” stated Kavon Ward (a Black resident) who discovered the history of Bruce’s Beach .

Mr. Ward cofounded Where Is My Land. This organization aims to get back land that was taken from Black Americans. To determine if it is possible to achieve its goals, the organization will be looking into several unspecified projects including one in California. Mr. Newsom, who was accompanied by half-dozen of his descendants on Thursday, apologized for the way the land had been taken. He signed the bill at the property.

“The Bruces have found mercy in the unfailing love of Jesus Christ,” said Anthony Bruce, the family’s great-great grandson, as he read a prayer during the ceremony.

Mr. Newsom suggests that the gesture could signal the beginning of larger reparations.

” This can be catalytic,” Newsom said. “What we’re doing here today can be done and replicated anywhere else.”

County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who led a government push to transfer the land, said the heirs would almost certainly be millionaires now if the property had not been taken.

“Law was used to take this property 100 many years ago and today it will be returned,” said Ms. Hahn. .

Mr. Newsom suggested that the Bruces might have been like other prominent Southern California entrepreneurs like the Gettys, who are well-known for their oil wealth and impressive art collection.

The Bruces own property on the southern shore of Santa Monica Bay consists of two parcels. The building that houses the county’s Lifeguard Training Headquarters is located there, and it overlooks a beautiful beach walk called The Strand.

In Manhattan Beach, an upscale Los Angeles seaside suburb, the population of 35,000 is more than 84% white and 0.8% Black, the city website says. The City Council has officially condemned their attempts to move the Bruces, and other Black families in the early th centuries.

The county has laid out steps to proceed with the transfer. These include assessing the property’s value and looking for ways to reduce the tax burden of the heirs.

The county will also need to verify the legal heirs from the Bruces, and perhaps find a new location for the headquarters of lifeguard training. The county could let the property back to its heirs for future use.

Patricia Bruce from Hawthorne stated that the family is still deciding what to do with the property.

This story was published by The Associated Press. John Antczak, an AP journalist contributed to the report.