Nearly 100 years after Willa and Charles Bruce had their beachfront property seized, California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that will return Bruce’s Beach to their descendants.
“The land in the City of Manhattan Beach, which was wrongfully taken from Willa and Charles Bruce, should be returned to their living descendants,” the bill states, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It is in the public interest of the State of California, the County of Los Angeles, the City of Manhattan Beach, and the People of the State of California to do so.”
The story of Bruce’s Beach stems back to the early 20th century. In 1912, the Bruce family purchased property on what is now known as Manhattan Beach. From there, the Black couple began to use the property as a resort for Black folks traveling through the area. Unfortunately, the Ku Klux Klan began to harass Willa Bruce, Charles Bruce and anyone who associated with them. In 1924, the Bruce family was forced off of their property because of eminent domain legislation. Nearly a century later, their property is valued at $75 million.
A movement to return the property to the Black couple’s descendants started to gain steam last summer when media outlets caught wind of the story. While some detractors questioned the idea of returning property to the Black family it was taken from, many were in support of it.
“If there’s generational wealth that can be transferred or inherited, then there should also be generational debts that should be incurred and taken cared of,” Anthony Bruce, one of the couple’s oldest direct descendants, told ABC News.
“I want people to take away from this that there is justice and that you have to pursue it and your family can find peace for some of the wrongs that were committed against them in the past.”
Moving forward, attorneys for the Bruce family and Los Angeles County will work out the proper way to transfer the land. While this process may take a long time to sort out, it is important that it be handled correctly to avoid any future legal challenges.
“My goal over the next several months will be to transfer this property in a way that not only works for the Bruce family — but is a model that other local governments can follow,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times.
“Returning Bruce’s Beach can and should set a precedent for this nation, and I know that all eyes will be on Los Angeles County as this work gets underway.”