/  06.30.2022

Nearly a century ago, miles of beautiful beachfront Southern California real estate was taken from Black owners during the Jim Crow era. Tuesday (June 28), the land was returned to that family’s descendants. The thriving waterfront community known as Bruce’s Beach is located in the city of Manhattan Beach.

After a unanimous vote, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to restore the land to the remaining family of Charles and Willa Bruce. The couple paid ​​$1,225 for the beach in 1912, and the property was a haven for Black families to relax and enjoy the SoCal sand, sun and waves. A cafe and changing rooms were among the amenities. Unfortunately, their dreams would soon be shattered once Klan members and white neighbors joined forces to drive the Black families out of the area.

Charles and Willa lost the beach in 1924 to eminent domain. This is a process in which the government or the city, in this case, can take private property for public use with payment. The city said it wanted to use the beach area to build a park. They paid the couple far less than the original purchase price. Today, homes along Bruce’s Beach sell for upwards of $7 million. The beach itself is said to be worth around $20 million.

The fight that led to this week’s unanimous decision has been going on for years and was headed by Justice for Bruce’s Beach. Holly Mitchell (chair of the county board of supervisors) presented the proposal. She called it “a historic moment for our county.” A spokesperson for the family, Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, said, “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. This is one step toward justice.”

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