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Bruce’s Beach: Los Angeles to Pay $20m for Land Seized from Black Family

Los Angeles has agreed to pay $20 million (£16.7 million) for a beach that was taken from a black family in the 1920s and given to their descendants this summer. Bruce’s Beach was purchased in 1912 to establish a black-only resort during a period of pervasive racial segregation.

It was taken by force by the municipal council in 1924, despite being located in the fashionable city of Manhattan Beach. According to a Los Angeles official who announced the transaction, the Bruce descendants would already be wealthy if their land had not been taken.

“The seizure of Bruce’s Beach over a century ago was an injustice imposed not only on Willa and Charles Bruce but on generations of their descendants who would have almost likely become billionaires,” said Janice Hahn, chairperson of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“This fight has always been about what is best for the Bruce family, and they believe that selling this property back to the county for nearly $20 million and finally rebuilding the generational wealth they were denied for nearly a century is what is best for them,” she continued in her Tuesday statement.

“This is what reparations look like, and it’s a model that I hope other countries would follow.” Reparations are a form of reparation for slavery, consisting of an apology and recompense to black residents whose ancestors were put into slavery. However, whether the government should make payments and how they should be distributed is a contentious political issue.

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Willa and Charles Bruce paid $1,225 for the two pieces of land in 1912, telling a reporter at the time, “Wherever we sought to buy land for a beach resort, we were refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it.”

However, the local police department posted signs restricting parking to 10 minutes, and another local landowner posted no trespassing signs, requiring people to walk half a mile to get to the lake. They were even threatened by the racist Ku Klux Klan terror organization.

When those restrictions failed to prevent visitors, the local authorities acquired the site using eminent domain laws, which allow the government to forcibly purchase land for highways and other public buildings. Officials stated they intended to construct a park. That didn’t happen until the 1960s, and the region sat empty in the meantime.

In June, the county restored the site to the family and agreed to continue leasing it from them for $413,000 a year in order to operate a county lifeguard training center on the beach. Anthony Bruce, a great-great-grandson of Willa and Charles, told a seaside transfer ceremony audience that the seizure “destroyed” his ancestors.

“I wish they could see what has occurred today because it wrecked their opportunity at the American Dream,” he added. At a news conference, Anthony Bruce, the great-great-grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, speaks. Earlier this year, the state of California’s first reparations taskforce revealed the contentious decision to limit payouts to descendants of black slaves solely.

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