[Update] The Deed is Done: California Transfers Land Back to Black Family After 100 Years

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Anthony Bruce, second from right, a great-great grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, holds up the title deed of the oceanfront property known as Bruce’s Beach during a dedication ceremony in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Wednesday, July 20, 2022, as he is joined by wife, Sandra, from right, Los Angeles County officials, Holly J. Mitchell, Janice Hahn and Dean Logan. Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday presented the deed to prime California oceanfront property to heirs of the Black couple who built a beach resort for African Americans but were harassed and finally stripped of the land nearly a century ago.
Anthony Bruce, second from right, a great-great grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, holds up the title deed of the oceanfront property known as Bruce’s Beach during a dedication ceremony in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Wednesday, July 20, 2022, as he is joined by wife, Sandra, from right, Los Angeles County officials, Holly J. Mitchell, Janice Hahn and Dean Logan. Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday presented the deed to prime California oceanfront property to heirs of the Black couple who built a beach resort for African Americans but were harassed and finally stripped of the land nearly a century ago.

Updated as of 7/22/2022 at 9:20 a.m.

In 1912, the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce purchased land in Manhattan Beach which was seized by California officials under the guise of eminent domain. Now, about 98 years later, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to return the property to the Bruce family, according to USA TODAY.

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After a unanimous decision by the board June 28, the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce, Marcus and Derrick, were given ownership of the beachfront property. The official copy of the land transfer was given during a ceremony Wednesday celebrating the property’s return.

Bruce’s Beach was purchased for $1,225 and operated as a resort for Black residents. Of course Black people couldn’t have anything in 1912 without it being disturbed by white folks. According to ABC 7, the resort became a target by white residents who vandalized property, damaged vehicles and ultimately led to an attack by the KKK in 1920. By 1924, the city condemned their property and seized it under the claim of building a city park.

Board member Janice Hahn said this won’t be the first time the state returns stolen land.

More from USA TODAY:

On Wednesday, Hahn recalled meeting with county lawyers last year and sharing her desire to return the Bruces’ land. The lawyers told her nothing like that had been done before, and the work would be “unprecedented.”

State Sen. Steven Bradford, who wrote the state bill needed to transfer the land, said it will help provide the Bruce family with the generational wealth they were denied for decades “simply because they were Black in America.”

“We cannot change the in justices that were done, or people in the past. But we owe it to the future generations to eliminate structural and systemic racism that still clearly exists today,” Bradford said.

The Bruce family has fought since April 2021 to reclaim the land. With the help of local advocacy groups, Sen. Steven Bradford’s Bill 796 and Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislation was passed to swiftly move along the transfer of ownership, per NBC.

The family said they plan to lease the land back to LA County at $413,000 a year for county lifeguard facilities to continue on the site. The agreement also stated the Bruce’s would be allowed to sell the property to the county for no more than $20 million.

Board chair supervisor Holly Mitchell celebrated the decision but also noted there’s more work to be done to “call out systemic racism.”

“We aren’t giving property to anyone today. We are returning property that was erroneously, and based on fear and hate, taken from them,” Mitchell said.