Historic Bruce’s Beach Property in California Returned to Descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce 100 Years After It Was Taken from Black Owners

Anthony Bruce, a great-great grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, is hugged by Los Angeles County supervisor Janice Hahn during a dedication ceremony in Manhattan Beach, California, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Jae C. Hong, AP)

Nearly 100 years after a Black couple was racially harassed and stripped of their California oceanfront resort, Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday gave the land back to their descendants.

The land transfer concluded two years of work by activists, the family and city officials who fought for t​​​he former Manhattan Beach resort to be returned to the family of Charles and Willa Bruce, who built the resort in 1912.

During a Wednesday ceremony on the shoreline of upscale city Manhattan Beach, their great-great grandson, Anthony Bruce, was given a copy of the land transfer.  

“We have set the precedent in the pursuit of justice,” said Janice Hahn, a member of the Board of Supervisors who helped lead the effort to return the land. “Today, we are returning stolen land for the first time, but it will not be the last.”

The official transfer of land to legal heirs and great-grandsons Marcus and Derrick Bruce came after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to return ownership June 28. LA County said the agreement allows the property to be leased back to the county for 24 months with an annual rent of $413,000 and lists the county’s right to purchase the land for up to $20 million.

The great-grandsons formed a company to hold the property.

The rise and fall of Bruce’s Beach

After purchasing the land in 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce built the first resort for Black people on the West Coast. At one point, members of the Ku Klux Klan attempted to burn down the property, and the Bruces were constantly harassed by white neighbors.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Jordan D. Brown