In 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce settled in the Manhattan Beach area and managed a successful beach resort for Black families until the city forced the family out of their land. The city officials claimed that they were going to build a public park in the same space as the thriving Black beach attraction that ultimately became a landmark for Black traveling families to feel safe.
In 1924, the land was seized after the Bruce family became victims to countless occasions of severe harassment from the prejudiced residents that surrounded their sanctuary. The city gave the Bruce family $14,500, and they were forced to leave the beach.
A century later, the descendants are still fighting to get their land back.
With the relatives of the family targeting the city of Manhattan Beach by building more awareness for their family’s monumental loss, Los Angeles County supervisors are contemplating the return of the land to the Bruce family. Los Angeles County Supervisor, Janice Hahn is considering land restoration, without reimbursements of the financial losses the family faced from losing their successful family business.
The younger Bruce family members have spoken out about how they would be millionaires if the Bruce Beach resort wasn’t stolen from them by the city.
Hahn desires to return the land eventually while rectifying the relationship the Bruce family has with Los Angeles County. At the established public park where the old Bruce Beach resort operated, the park is named “Bruce Beach” and there is a plaque there in remembrance of the family who once benefited off of the wealth they received from their Black visitors and tourists.
Controversy surrounds the plaque because it mentions the white landowner, George Peck, and celebrates his contribution to the Bruce family’s property even though he terrorized the Black beach goers.
The Bruce Beach resort flourished during Jim Crow because of the influx of Black travelers who were fleeing the South, and it’s major Ku Klux Klan propaganda that was very present in the United States.
Willa and Charles Bruce’s investment gamble paid off compared to the busy tourist seasons and popularity of the beachside resort. Still, the city of Manhattan Beach reconsidering the former city official’s racially-motivated attacks on the Bruce family, doesn’t grant the younger generations the opportunity to generational wealth that Will and Charles were planning for.