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A Calif. Beach Was Seized From Black Owners In 1924. Now The Family Will Get It Back

Flowers in support of the Bruce family and George Floyd stand at Bruce's Beach in April in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Flowers in support of the Bruce family and George Floyd stand at Bruce's Beach in April in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Updated September 30, 2021 at 4:55 PM ET

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill allowing a plot of beachfront land along the Southern California coast to be returned to the descendants of a married Black couple who lost it to eminent domain nearly a century ago.

Bruce's Beach, a once thriving resort for Black families owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, was seized by the town of Manhattan Beach in 1924 with the stated goal of building a park.

But historical records compiled in a recent report on the incident, which included a raft of complaints from white neighbors at the time, show the land was condemned because its proprietors and patrons were Black.

An effort is nearly complete to return the land, which is now owned by Los Angeles County, to the Bruce family's descendants and make amends for its seizure during the Jim Crow era.

Newsom signed the bill before a crowd Thursday at Bruce's Beach, local media reported.

"I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them," Newsom said at the bill signing, according to NBC Los Angeles. "We haven't always had a proud past."

Previous state law required Los Angeles County to use Bruce's Beach for public recreation and prohibits the county from transferring it, but the new law scraps those restrictions.

The California Legislature gave its final approval to the measure this month.

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