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Black Family Given Deed To Beach Almost 100 Years After It Was Seized From Them

Black Family Given Deed To Beach Almost 100 Years After It Was Seized From Them

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the land which became known as Bruce's Beach in 1912

The deeds to a beach in California have been returned to the descendants of the Black couple who had the property seized from them nearly 100 years ago.

Willa and Charles Bruce purchased the land, which became known as Bruce's Beach, in 1912 with hopes to develop it into a resort offering Black families a place to relax in safety at a time when racial segregation was still the status quo across much of the country.

The entrepreneurs built a lodge, café, dance hall and dressing tents for visitors, but the dream turned into a nightmare as they started to receive harassment from racist neighbours and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Bruce's Beach is now estimated to be worth $20 million.

The fruits of their hard work was eventually ripped away from them entirely in 1924, when the city took the property through eminent domain - the right of the state to take property without the owner's consent - and paid the couple just a fraction of what they had asked for.

Decades on, the LA County Registrar-Recorder joined Willa and Charles' great-great grandson in a ceremony on Wednesday 20 July to hand over an official deed marking the transfer of land back to the family.

Steven Bradford, the state senator who authored the state bill which allowed the return of the land, commented: "This transfer will allow the Bruce family to realise generational wealth, which they have been denied for generations simply because they were Black in America."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn added: "Nothing like this has ever been done before. We can't change the past and we will never be able to make up for the injustice that was done to your great, great grandparents and great grandparents, Willa and Charles nearly a century ago. But this is a start."

Anthony Bruce held the document above his head in celebration at the event, with a crowd cheering the return of the land to its rightful owners.

The property is now estimated to be worth $20 million (£16.7m), with houses located nearby priced at nearly $7m (£5.8m) each.

The transfer comes after lawmakers unanimously voted on giving the land back to the couple’s family in 2021, with another vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month furthering the move.

It is the culmination of effort a two-year effort by the grassroots movement Justice for Bruce's Beach, founded by Kavon Ward. Speaking to CNN after the board of supervisors' vote, Ward said she felt a 'sense of peace' that the land was being returned.

"I feel joy. I feel honoured that the most high would use me as a vessel to help make this happen, to be the catalyst for this happening," she said.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Getty Images

Topics: US News, Racism