L.A. County Returns Beachfront Seized From Black Family 98 Years Ago

A Los Angeles County commission voted all to return a beachfront resort that was taken from a black family almost a century ago. Bruce’s Beach was initially acquired in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, who turned it into a resort often visited by African Americans. The couple had actually moved from New Mexico and purchased the land from a white landowner called George Peck.

The beachfront location of 27th and 26th street is now part of Manhattan Beach. At the time, it was utilized for minorities who didn’t have access to other beaches.

Rosanna Xia, writing for the L.A. Times, provided a historical account:

By 1912, Charles and Willa Bruce had made their way to California. Willa purchased two lots right by the sand and ran a popular lodge, cafe and dance hall that extended a rare welcome to Black beachgoers. A few more Black families, drawn to this new neighborhood that became known as Bruce’s Beach, bought and built their own cottages by the sea.

But the Bruces and their guests faced increasing threats from white neighbors. The Ku Klux Klan and local real estate agents purportedly plotted ways to harass them.

When racism failed to drive this Black beach community out of town, city officials in 1924 condemned the neighborhood and seized more than two dozen properties through eminent domain. They said there was an urgent need for a public park.

But for decades, the properties sat empty. The two oceanfront parcels that had been owned by the Bruces were transferred to the state in 1948, then to the county in 1995. As for the other lots, city officials eventually turned them into a pretty park overlooking the ocean.

What occurred to the Bruces was a typical incident in California, which– like much of the remainder of the nation– had a sordid history of racial discrimination versus blacks, especially when it pertained to home ownership.

The president of the California Real Estate Association warned of a “Negro invasion” and stated black locals would collapse residential or commercial property worths. In Los Angeles, soon after a black neighborhood was developed in South Central, the city started rezoning it for commercial centers. As a result, scrap backyards ended up being prevalent in the neighborhood. From California, to the East Coast, through race covenants, not only would the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) not guarantee black-owned houses, but it declined to guarantee the houses of whites who wished to reside in communities with blacks.

“This is a day we weren’t sure would ever come,” said Anthony Bruce, a great-great grandson of Willa and Charles. “It destroyed them financially. It destroyed their chance at the American Dream. I wish they could see what has happened today.”

“We hope this opens people’s eyes to a part of American history that isn’t talked about enough, and we think it’s a step toward trying to right the wrongs of the past,” he added.

Earlier this month, this month, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans supplied a 500-page interim report advising the state to take actions to compensate for previous racial discrimination that led to quantifiable losses.

“Without accountability, there is no justice. For too long, our nation has ignored the harms that have been — and continue to be — inflicted on African Americans in California and across the country,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “California was not a passive actor in perpetuating these harms. We must double down on our efforts to address discrimination in our state and nation and take a hard look at our own history, including at the California Department of Justice.”

Critics of propositions looking at reparations typically mention issues connected with offering payment to those who have actually not been directly victimized themselves, from those who have themselves never oppressed anyone. However, Bruce’s Beach was not such a situation given there was a direct familial chain from the couple who was taken advantage of by the state to those who sought redress. Rather than reparations for the sake of race alone, this presents a case of eminent domain abuse being corrected.

“For us as a family, this had a wonderful beginning. And then it turned into a tragic story for my family. Back in the day, prejudice was rampant. And unfortunately my family was the victim of a hate crime and the prejudice that was around during those times,” said Bruce.

“So, now that this is finally taking place, for us as a family, we are greatly relieved, and we are so thankful that this has made such an impact on our nation,” he added.

“The decision to return Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family reveals three important factors missing from modern politics: respecting history as a mechanism to destroying systems of racism, the power of local government to correct current conditions from past mistakes, and the accountability to merge that history and power towards correction,”

Sonnie Johnson, political consultant and Sirius XM Radio host, told Timcast. “Each portion of the process fit perfectly with the principles of Conservatism and should be seen as a model to repair the Progressive damage done to Black communities.”

As owners of the beach, the family will now rent the land back to L.A. County for $413,000 annually, so county lifeguard centers might continue running. The family likewise will hold the option to offer the residential or commercial property to the county for approximately $20 million.

H/T Timcast

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