A descendant of the couple said the family found ‘mercy in the undying love of Jesus Christ’
A multimillion-dollar California beachfront estate would be given back to the descendants of a black couple after the government took land through Eminent Domain in the 1920s.
“Bruce finds mercy in the undying love of Jesus Christ,” Anthony Bruce said, the family’s great-grandson, as he read a prayer during a ceremony involving the land on Thursday.
Villa and Charles Bruce purchased the property in Manhattan Beach, a Los Angeles suburb, in 1912 for $1,225. The beach soon became known as “Bruce’s Beach” and offered a California resort to black families as other local beaches turned them away based on their race.
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The Associated Press reported that white locals, however, began to complain about Bruce, his resort, and the families vacationing there, leading to racism and harassment.
The city eventually took over the land in 1924 through eminent domain – the government’s power to take private property for public use – stating that it would be used as a park. However, the land remained dormant for years and was finally transferred to the state in 1948.
The couple also sued for racial discrimination and eventually received $14,500, but they never got the land back. Los Angeles Times.
The land was again transferred to Los Angeles County in 1995 for beachfront operations, which limited the ability to sell or relocate the property.
The property sits on two lots, now worth approximately $75 million total.
The process of transferring land back to the descendants of the Bruce couple began on Thursday, when legislation was unanimously approved by state lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom signed the landmark bill into law.
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“As governor of California, let me do what Manhattan Beach is clearly not ready to do, and I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice they did to them a century ago,” Newsom said Thursday. Said in Manhattan Beach. “I say that as a proud Californian, but also keep in mind that we haven’t always had a proud past.”
“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and the law will give it back today,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said.
When Newsom signed the bill, about six descendants of the Bruce couple were in attendance, as well as local activists.
“Other families are looking forward to this day to get their land back,” said Patricia Bruce, a cousin of Villa and Charles Bruce.
“The journey here was far from easy,” said Cavan Ward, a black resident who founded Justice for Bruce Beach after learning about the property’s history. Ward also founded Where Is My Land, an organization that aims to return land taken from black Americans and receive restitution.
Patricia Bruce said the family has yet to decide what it will do with the property.
The Associated Press and Granthshala News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.