California returns land taken from black family

California returns land taken from black family

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California returns land taken from black family

A century-old racial injustice was righted on Wednesday when the deed to Los Angeles County beachfront property that had been taken from an African-American couple was ceremoniously returned to their heirs.

Dignitaries participating in the ceremony called the return of government land unjustly acquired from black citizens unprecedented in the US and a model for other jurisdictions to follow.

The property now belongs to Marcus and Derrick Bruce, great-grandsons of Willa and Charles Bruce, who said they will share the proceeds with their extended family.

Derrick Bruce attended the ceremony along with his son Anthony Bruce, who will manage the property, which houses a lifeguard training facility. Los Angeles County will now lease the land for $413,000 per year and retain the right to buy it for $20 million.

“I hope that many people are propelled to action because of this and that they understand that it does take a lot of grit,” Anthony Bruce said.

Bruce’s Beach, 650 square meters of prime real estate in the city of Manhattan Beach, had once been the rare resort where black people could gather and enjoy the beach in segregated and discriminatory Los Angeles County of the early 20th century.

In 1924 Manhattan Beach officials, ostensibly claiming eminent domain to build a park, forced out Willa and Charles Bruce. The land was later transferred to the state and then the county. 

Activists and politicians determined the real motivation for eminent domain was racism, and passed a state law in 2021 to approve returning the land to the Bruces’ heirs.