Bruce's Beach: Justice for the Bruce family
Bruce's Beach: Justice for the Bruce family
We the residents of Manhattan Beach and the undersigned individuals from around the United States implore Manhattan Beach City Council and Mayor Richard Montgomery to address and reveal the full history of Bruce's Beach.
Bruce's Beach was owned by Charles and Willie (Willa) Bruce, an African American husband and wife, who purchased the land in 1912 to provide a place of recreation for African American residents of the greater Los Angeles area and visitors to the community, during a time when beaches were segregated and inaccessible to minorities. They developed the beach resort into a flourishing enterprise accessible to all -- until the designation of ‘Black Beach’ was branded on it by the Ku Klux Klan and the City Council of Manhattan Beach in 1920. It should be noted the Bruces never designated their enterprise as exclusively a ‘Black Beach.’ It was roped off by the city, and white residents protested as soon as the resort opened. The Bruces and their visitors were consistently harassed on the basis of their race. The Daily Breeze cites the involvement of the KKK in much of this harassment. White residents at the time urged the city to employ eminent domain to revoke the Bruce's ownership of the land and build a public park in its place --- which is what the city did in 1924 --- but the park was never built.
The lot sat vacant for 30 years. In the 1950's, an official of the City of Manhattan Beach suggested a park be immediately created on the land because of the nefarious and fraudulent way the land was taken -- to prevent the descendants of Bruce Family from trying to reclaim it.
It was not until 2006 that the park renamed Bruce's Beach, after the first and only Black Mayor elected in Manhattan Beach, Mitch Ward, headed a campaign to restore the name. Let it be noted the present Mayor, then on the City Council, voted against the recognition and name change. The present Vice Mayor recently stated that the money they received in compensation for the property was fair, without any consideration of the violation of their Civil Rights and the TERROR they endured physically, emotionally, and economically through the loss of their lively hood and housing,
As citizens of the City of Manhattan Beach, it is crucial that the full and complete history of Bruce's Beach is known. We are calling for:
1. The present plaque needs to be replaced: The current plaque fails to give an accurate depiction of events and fails to mention KKK involvement, the harassment that Black visitors faced while enjoying the beach, and the circumstances regarding the eminent domain seizure of the land. City leaders must acknowledge and address the history of Bruce's Beach and the role of the city in seizing and condemning the property. We demand that the current plaque be replaced by a historically accurate plaque that is meant to commemorate Bruce’s Beach, the owners, and their bravery so that residents and visitors can learn the true history of the land.
2. Restoration and restitution made to the Bruce family: Naming the park "Bruce's Beach" is not enough to undo the city's role in shoving the Bruce family out of the city and discouraging other Minority families from taking up residence in the community. We demand the city restore the land to the Bruce family, and provide restitution for loss of revenue for 95 years and monetary damages for the wanton violation of their civil rights. Naming the park without restoration and restitution entirely trivializes the discrimination and hate they suffered, as well as the economic losses they endured.
3. Public statement from the City of Manhattan Beach: The residents of Manhattan Beach deserve to understand that racism is not a distant, faraway concept -- it happened right here, and that's why it's so important to actively combat it not only on a broad scale, but in our own community. We call for a public statement from the city to address the park's history and it’s future commitment to change the current racial intolerant climate in the City Administration, law enforcement, and the community as a whole.
This is an opportunity for our city to demonstrate the leadership we deserve. Our citizens are looking to our officials for courage and vision in guiding conversations about race that might be challenging but are imperative. There are so many things that we as a city and a community can do in this moment -- and owning our history is a simple first step on a committed and tireless journey to address injustice for the rest of our future.
Don't miss this moment.
MB/HB/MBUSD Community Panel for Equity
Duane Shepard Sr/ Direct descendant of the Bruce family and designated Representative.
Kavon Ward - Founder, Justice for Bruce’s Beach.
More information about Bruce's Beach:
Los Angeles Times: Manhattan Beach was once home to Black beachgoers, but the city ran them out. Now it faces a reckoning
New York Times: Juneteenth and Bruce's Beach
Daily Breeze: Why it took nearly a century for Bruce’s Beach to get its name back