In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce bought a beachfront property in a Los Angeles suburb. They named it Bruce Beach and it was the first West Coast resort for Black families. This was a way for them to escape the segregation and violence from their white neighbors.
The escape wasn’t forever, it turned out. The Klu Klux Klan would harass families at the beach to drive them away.
Then, in 1924, the city government decided to take the property under the guise of eminent domain. The city government claimed they needed the property for a park, but the land was vacant for several decades until the Bruces arrived. The name later changed to Manhattan Beach.
The couple originally bought the land for $1,225. After the property was taken from them, the Bruces were continuously denied from buying land for their beach resort. Now, over 100 years later, the $75 million property will be returned back to the Bruce family thanks to a newly signed California bill.
This bill, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford of California in February, passed the California Senate last month, stating that Los Angeles county must give the rights, title and interest in the granted lands back to the Bruce Family.
In 2006, officials renamed the land Bruce Beach and put up a plaque honoring Will and Charles Bruce and the history behind the beach. However, it failed to mention how the KKK harassed the family, only mentioning George Peck’s co-founding of Manhattan beach.
In an interview with The Guardian, Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, an ancestor of the Bruce family, said he believes Peck didn’t change Bruce Beach in a positive way.
“George Peck was not the white savior of the Black people to allow this community to begin,” said Shepard. “It misrepresents what happened,” he said, referring to the plaque.
Shepard said most of the Bruce’s are living in poverty, and this could have been their saving grace. Instead, the Bruces lost out on generational wealth, with reparations only now being addressed by the state of California.
“They would have been multimillionaires,” he said.