Righting A Wrong: The Battle Over Bruce's Beach

A stretch of beachfront property in Manhattan Beach that was wrongfully seized from a Black family about 91-years-ago could soon be returned to them. Joy Benedict reports.

Video Transcript

- Righting a wrong. LA County plans to give prime beachfront property back to its original owners-- a black family that was forced to give it up decades ago.

- But as KCAL 9's Joy Benedict shows us, it won't be easy to return Bruce's Beach in Manhattan Beach to the family.

JOY BENEDICT: It's one of the most renowned beach communities on the West Coast as Manhattan Beach offers two miles of sandy shores and multimillion dollar homes. But this small parcel of land north of the pier has a sinister past.

JANICE HAHN: And hopefully, all of us here can begin to right a wrong that happened 100 years ago.

JOY BENEDICT: What is now an LA County lifeguard station was once Bruce's lodge, also known as Bruce's Beach.

STEVEN BRADFORD: In 1912, Charles and Willa Bruce were a young black couple who created the West Coast's first beach resort owned by and meant for black Americans.

JOY BENEDICT: In a time when Jim Crow segregation laws prevented African-Americans from enjoying other parts of the sand, the Bruce family welcomed all and flourished as business owners. But that angered the predominantly white neighborhood, and eventually, the KKK.

STEVEN BRADFORD: These Black-owned properties experienced tremendous amounts of hatred, harassment, hostility, and violence.

JOY BENEDICT: The land was taken by the city of Manhattan Beach in 1924, and decades later, transferred to the county.

STEVEN BRADFORD: The Bruce family was robbed of their land. They were robbed of their business. They were robbed of their legacy. But most importantly, they were robbed of their dignity.

JOY BENEDICT: Today, the county announced it plans to give it back.

HOLLY MITCHELL: The county isn't gifting anyone anything. The county is returning property that was inappropriately taken.

JOY BENEDICT: County and state leaders stood side by side with a spokesperson for the Bruce family, hoping to start a new precedent.

DUANE SHEPARD: For restoration of our land. Restitution for the loss of enterprise and punitive damages.

- I feel like the only thing we could do would be to return it.

JOY BENEDICT: In order for this land to be transferred back to the Bruce family, the law has to change. So a bill will be introduced on Monday in the California legislature allowing that to happen. The Bruce family has no stipulations-- they can sell the property or they can lease it back to the county and create an annual income.

STEVEN BRADFORD: Sadly, the Bruce story is not unique.

JOY BENEDICT: As community leaders hope this small gesture will lead to big change, not only for this family, this community, but our nation as it struggles to heal. Joy Benedict, KCAL 9 news.