Bruce’s Beach was a place where Black people had fun and Whites were irked

It was a place where Black people could swim, lie on the beach, soak up the Sun, picnic, and just be happy. The Bruce family called it Bruce’s Beach. It was developed by Willa and Charles Bruce, a husband-and-wife team. Charles named the beach after his wife. 

The property at 26th Street and Highland Avenue was owned and operated by the Bruce family for the benefit of the Black community when racial segregation prevented them from enjoying other beaches in the area. The land was known as Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles before it changed its name to Bruce’s Beach.

In 1912, the Bruce family bought beach property in the area for $1,225 from Los Angeles real estate broker Henry Willard. 

“Back in the day, prejudice was rampant. And unfortunately, my family was a victim of a hate crime and the prejudice that was around during those times,” said Anthony Bruce, great-great-grandson of the Bruce family.

After it opened in 1912, it was along the south shore of Santa Monica. Bruce’s beach became a successful and popular visitor destination for African Americans. It boasted a lodge, café, and dance hall. 

But there was trouble ready to explode that would destroy the development and the Burce family’s dreams.

The Klu Klux Klan, including Whites who supported the Klan, but were not white hood-wearing members, terrorized Black swimmers, beachgoers, and sunbathers. 

The KKK terrorism was followed by city officials who used eminent domain to tear down the buildings on the beach property.

In 1924 the city council of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to close down Bruce’s Beach on the grounds that the area was to be redeveloped as a public park. 

Willa and Charles Bruce sued Manhattan Beach for $120,000, which included $35,000 for each lot and $50,000 in damages. In 1929, they received $14,500 for the land. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom said a recently passed bill cleared the way for the beach to be transferred back to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce, given that it had been essentially stolen from them.ef Duane “Yellow Feather” Shepard is an extended member o

The Bruce family regained their beach, and in turn, sold the land back to Los Angeles for nearly $20 million.

In addition, the Bruce family leased the property back to Los Angeles for $413,000 including operation and maintenance costs. 

The lease agreement began in June and runs for 24 months. Not everyone is happy with the deal. Critics have said the Bruces shouldn’t have sold the property.

“It is never too late for justice,” Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, who authored the bill, said. “Even 100 years later, we have the perfect opportunity to return land that was unjustly stolen from the Bruce family.”