“Generations of their descendants… almost certainly would have been millionaires if they had been able to keep their property and their successful business.”
The Chicago suburb of Evanston has launched the country’s first reparations program to compensate for the racism and discrimination Black Americans have historically experienced and continue to face in society, but across the country in California, reparations are taking a different form.
In Manhattan Beach, a wealthy Southern California town, an initiative is underway to right a wrong that occurred nearly a century ago. In 1924, Charles and Willa Bruce, a Black couple, owned a successful beachfront resort in the town, but the city took the two-lot property through eminent domain, paying the couple a fraction of what it was worth. This was after years of harassment from white neighborhoods and violence at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan who opposed desegregation in the region.
Today, the property belongs to the state and Los Angeles County, which are working to draft legislation to return the property to the descendants of the Bruce family. Charles and Willa struggled financially after the loss of their property and died just five years later. Today, the property is worth an estimated $75 million.
“The Bruces had their California dream stolen from them,” said county Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Generations of their descendants… almost certainly would have been millionaires if they had been able to keep their property and their successful business.”
This case is a direct example of how discrimination and racist policies have directly restricted Black Americans from economic opportunity. Today, less than one percent of Manhattan Beach residents are Black. The Bruces’ story is unfortunately not unique in California, but this return of land is a first step to compensating for these historic wrongs.