Newsom signs law to return California land seized from black family 100 years ago

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Newsom signs law to return California land seized from black family 100 years ago

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that allows a prime beachfront property to be returned to the descendants of a black couple who were run out of town a century ago after racial harassment by the Ku Klux Klan and white neighbors.

The Senate Bill 796 signed into law Thursday before an enthusiastic crowd at the Manhattan Beach site confirms that the city’s taking of the Bruces’ property was racially motivated and done under false and unlawful pretenses, according to the LA Times.

“The land in the City of Manhattan Beach, which was wrongfully taken from Willa and Charles Bruce, should be returned to their living descendants,” the law states, “and it is in the public interest of the State of California, the County of Los Angeles, the City of Manhattan Beach, and the People of the State of California to do so.”

The family, which bought the property in 1912, built the first resort for blacks on the West Coast at a time when segregation banned them from the majority of beaches.  

An aerial view shows the Bruce's Beach property returned to the Bruce family.
An aerial view shows the Bruce’s Beach property returned to the Bruce family.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

The owners and their guests became targets of the KKK, which tried to burn the resort down. Their white neighbors also harassed the couple and customers by putting up fake “10 minute only” parking signs and letting the air out of their tires.

In 1924, the city condemned the area and seized more than 20 properties through eminent domain — justifying the move by claiming there was an urgent need for a public park. The empty plot was transferred to the state in 1948 and then LA County in 1995.

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the property in 1912 before they were subject to racial harassment and forced out of town.
Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the property in 1912 before they were subject to racial harassment and forced out of town.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

The bill’s author, state Sen. Steven Bradford, said the new law is a first step toward correcting many injustices in the state and country.

“This bill sets the tone for the future of reparations in California. If you can inherit generational wealth, you can inherit generational debt,” Bradford said.

“The city of Manhattan Beach owes a debt to the Bruce family. The state of California owes a debt to the Bruce family, and the county of Los Angeles owes a debt to the Bruce family — and our governor today is here to fix his signature to this bill to pay that debt to the Bruce family,” he added.

Anthony Bruce, the great-great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce, calls Thursday's events "catalytic."
Anthony Bruce, the great-great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce, calls Thursday’s events “catalytic.”
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Anthony Bruce, the family’s great-great grandson, read a prayer during the ceremony.

“The Bruces have found mercy in the unfailing love of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Newsom suggested that Thursday’s move could spur broader reparations.

“This can be catalytic. What we’re doing here today can be done and replicated anywhere else,” he said.

With Post wires

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