LA official returning beachfront to Black family says ‘whole country’ should give back ‘stolen’ land

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<p>Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn speaks after touring a Covid-19 vaccination site on 22 February, 2021 in Long Beach, California</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn speaks after touring a Covid-19 vaccination site on 22 February, 2021 in Long Beach, California

(AFP via Getty Images)

A Los Angeles County official who is taking steps to return a beachfront property to descendants of a Black couple who originally owned the resort has urged the “whole country” to follow their example.

LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who is leading the effort to return the property, told TMZ in an interview that last year she “woke up” to the “atrocities” against African Americans “with the rest of the country.”

A Black couple who built a resort for African Americans on the prime beachfront property along the shoreline in Manhattan Beach were stripped of the land by local city officials a century ago.

“I knew in my heart there was only one thing to do and that was to figure out how to give the property back,” Ms Hahn said.

The five-member Board of Supervisors previously voted unanimously to have the county chief executive’s office report back in 60 days with a plan on how to return the land.

Now, Ms Hahn is calling on the rest of the country to follow suit and return land to Black and indigenous people to “apologise” for the past.

“I think this is the first time in our nation that our government has given back land to an African American family to make amends for past discrimination and atrocities and policies,” she said.

Ms Hahn added: “This is a very small first step towards what I think this whole country should be doing and that’s really working to repair and make amends with the African Americans in this country.”

The supervisor said that “we as a collective society should apologise really not just to African Americans but... to indigenous Americans” for “how we literally stole land for public benefit.”

The land, which became known as Bruce’s Beach, was purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, who built the first West Coast resort for Black people at a time when many beaches were segregated.

The couple suffered racist harassment from white neighbors and in the 1920s the Manhattan Beach City Council took the land away through eminent domain under the ruse of needing it for a park.

The city did nothing with the property and it eventually was transferred to the state in 1948. In 1995, the state transferred it to the county, which built its lifeguard training headquarters on the site.

That transfer came alongside restrictions on further transfers, which could only be lifted through state legislation. A bill to lift the legislation was introduced in the state Senate last week.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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