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L.A. County returns $21 million beach property taken from Black family in 1929

L.A. County returns $21 million beach property taken from Black family in 1929
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) and Anthony Bruce (L) on Bruce's Beach after Newsom signed a bill in 2021 returning the $21 million Los Angeles County beach-front property to the Bruce family. Photo courtesy of Gavin Newsom/Twitter

June 29 (UPI) -- Almost a century after it was taken, Los Angeles County beach land worth $21 million was returned Tuesday to descendants of its Black owners. The town of Manhattan Beach took the land from Charles and Willa Bruce in 1929.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the return of Bruce's Beach to the great-grandsons of Charles and Willa Bruce, CNN and the New York Times reported.

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The land was taken from the original Black owners through eminent domain condemnation proceedings in 1924.

"This is a day we weren't sure would ever come, the return of our family's property happened thanks to the hard work of many, many people. It means the world to us, and we know how important this is to people across the country. But it is also bittersweet," Anthony Bruce said in a statement.

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He said his great-grandparents Willa and Charles Bruce sacrificed to open a business that gave Black people a place to gather and socialize. He said the town of Manhattan Beach "took it from them because of the color of their skin" and it destroyed them financially.

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"It is never too late to right a wrong. Bruce's Beach was taken nearly a century ago, but it was an injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who would, almost certainly, be millionaires today if they had been allowed to keep their beachfront property," said Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement.

"Bruce's Beach has always been so much more than a scenic location to enjoy the California coast. It was a refuge for Black families who came from across the state when racist laws wouldn't allow for any other safe beach going options," said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell in a statement.

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"It holds the memories of countless Black families, the deep pain of multi-generational loss, and the hope that comes from facing the heinous acts of our past and having the courage to do what is right today," Mitchell said.

Hahn's statement also said that by returning the land to their great-grandsons, the Bruce family will finally have the opportunity to start rebuilding the generational wealth that was denied them for decades.

The land in the town of Manhattan Beach is an estimated 7,000 square feet of beach appraised at a current value of $21 million, according to a press release from Los Angeles County Supervisor Hahn.

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That press release said the Bruce family operated a thriving resort on the property "welcoming to Black patrons when legal segregation kept Black families from accessing California public beaches up until 1929 when the City of Manhattan Beach condemned the property."

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