In 1912 Willa and Charles Bruce purchased land bordering the ocean in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles for $1,225. The Black couple decided to build a resort that provided beach access and lodging to Black travelers. The venue became extremely popular and even spawned other Black entrepreneurs to purchase land in the same area. As the population of Los Angeles grew and property prices began to soar, White developers became uncomfortable with the Black land owners and put pressure on elected officials to force them out.

In 1927 the city of Manhattan Beach misused the law of eminent domain to take control of the Bruce’s property (and several other Black property owners). The Bruce’s fought to reclaim the land from the city for years with little resolve and their heirs continued the fight for decades after their death.

Two couples stand on a walkway at the Bruce’s Beach resort in Manhattan Beach, Calif., circa 1920. A few years later, the city condemned the property and seized it from its Black owners.
Miriam Matthews Photograph Collections, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

Finally after a century of fighting, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 28, 2022, to return the two oceanfront parcels to the Bruce family.

“The City’s action at the time was racially motivated and wrong. Today, the City acknowledges, empathizes, and condemns those past actions. We are not the Manhattan Beach of one hundred years ago. We reject racism, hate, intolerance, and exclusion.” reads a newly designed plaque that will soon sit on the land.

The Bruce family saw this as a huge victory and eventually decided to sell the land for 20 million dollars. The family stated that they were very happy with the sales price as the land was zoned only for public use.

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