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Published December 30, 2022
Updated January 9, 2023

Bruce’s Beach In Los Angeles County Returned To Black Family Decades After Officials Seized It

Bruce's Beach

Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesAnthony Bruce holds up the property deed for Bruce’s Beach after officials voted to return it to his family.

In 1924, Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County used eminent domain to seize Bruce’s Beach, a beachfront property owned by a Black couple named Willa and Charles Bruce. But in 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to return the property to the Bruces’ descendants.

“We can’t change the past,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said of the vote. “And we will never be able to make up for the injustice that was done to Willa and Charles Bruce a century ago. But this is a start.”

The couple originally purchased the property in 1912 and established it as a resort for Black people. But they endured harassment from their neighbors, local police, and the KKK. When the city took the beach, with the stated intention of turning it into a public park, the Bruces requested $70,000 for the property and $50,000 in damages, but they were offered just $14,500. To make matters worse, their beach was then left unattended until the 1950s.

Their descendants say that the loss of the beach “destroyed them financially” and “destroyed their chance at the American Dream.” What’s more, it robbed the family of nearly a century of generational wealth.

But the Bruce family is pleased to finally have the beach back in their hands. They called it a “step toward trying to right the wrongs of the past.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.