In September, Senate Bill 796 unanimously passed the California Senate, ensuring Los Angeles County gives back land seized from a Black family.
“This property was stolen from the Bruces,” Senator Steven Bradford from California District 35 said.” We’re returning what was stolen, what was rightfully theirs.”
In 1912, Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the beachfront property and turned it into a resort open to Black customers.
“The Ku Klux Klan was involved in harassing them,” Janice Hahn, LA County Supervisor, revealed.
“And when that didn’t drive them away, the city government decided to take the property under the guise of eminent domain.”
That was in the 1920s, and the area known as Bruce’s Beach became Manhattan Beach.
After their land was taken, the Bruce family was barred from purchasing any new ground in the area.
The land initially sold to the Bruces for $1,225 is now valued at around $75 million.
“This injustice against Willa and Charles Bruce wasn’t just against them,” Hahn said. “It was against generations of Bruces who most certainly would have been millionaires by now.”
“Well, what do you think generational wealth could have looked like for the Bruces?” Brandford notes. “Let’s look at the Gettys. Let’s look at the Rockefellers. Let’s look at the Fords. Let’s look at the Bushes. Let’s look at the Kennedys. That’s what generational wealth could look like for the Bruce family.”
Anthony Bruce, great-great-grandson of Charles and Willa, says it’s about more than the money. “When we were last in Manhattan Beach, the Bruces, it was a terrible situation for us,” he said.
So far, no formal apology has been issued from the Los Angeles city council.
“And many say, ‘Well, I wasn’t there at the time. It wasn’t my responsibility,'” Brandford notes. “Well, last time I checked, Ronald Reagan wasn’t president during the Japanese internment, but he apologized. Last time I checked the Currency Council in San Jose, who just apologized this week to the Chinese who had their complete town decimated in 1887, that council had the courage to apologize.”
“So why now, in 2021, does this council not have the courage to apologize not only to the Bruce family but to the six other families?”
With this signature on Senate Bill 796, the beachfront property must be returned to the Bruce descendants.
LA County has released a proposal with options for that transfer, including a plan that lets the Bruce family lease their land back to LA County, which would make the government have to pay them rent.