Bruce's Beach [essay]
Bruce's Beach was a popular vacation spot for African Americans in Manhattan Beach, California in the early 20th century. It was named after Charles and Willa Bruce, a married couple who owned and operated the beach resort.
Bruce's Beach was a rare oasis for black people during a time when segregation was prevalent and beaches were often off-limits to people of color. The Bruces purchased the land in 1912 and built a small hotel, beach cottages, and a dance hall, creating a space where black people could relax, have fun, and feel welcomed.
The beach resort quickly became a popular destination for black celebrities and intellectuals, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Duke Ellington. It was a place where people could escape the racism and discrimination they faced in their everyday lives and enjoy the freedom and beauty of the beach.
Unfortunately, Bruce's Beach was not immune to the segregation and racism that existed in the wider society. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan marched through Manhattan Beach and threatened the Bruces and their guests. In the 1930s, the city of Manhattan Beach tried to shut down the beach resort by refusing to issue the Bruces a business license.
Despite these challenges, the Bruces persevered and continued to operate their beach resort until the 1950s. In 1962, the city of Manhattan Beach condemned the property and forced the Bruces to sell it. The beach resort was eventually demolished and replaced with a parking lot.
Following the death of George Floyd, the call for the land to be returned to the family grew, and one of the prominent voices who was behind that effort and raised awareness was activist Kavon Ward, founder of Justice for Bruce Beach and CEO of Where is My Land. Activists and politicians determined the real motivation for eminent domain was racism, and passed a state law in 2021 to approve returning the land to the family's heirs.
Recently, the land was sold back to Los Angeles county for 20 million USD.
Bruce's Beach may be gone, but its legacy lives on. It is remembered as a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of discrimination and segregation. It is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there can be pockets of hope and joy where people can come together and celebrate their shared humanity.