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Improperly Seized Property Returned to Family of Original Owners

Back in 1912, Willa and Charles Bruce were one of the first African-American landowners in Los Angeles County after purchasing a plot of oceanside property and opening one of the only non-racially-segregated resorts in the area.

Despite the grateful patronage of Black visitors, “Bruce’s Beach” eventually became a target of racist attacks from a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Family historian Duane Shephard said, “They started harassing my family around 1920. They burned a cross. They threw burning mattresses under the porch of one of the buildings.”

By 1924, the city used the process of eminent domain as a pretext to seize the property from the Bruce family and turn it into a public park. L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, “These people were terrorized and kicked out of a community where they were trying to live peacefully. Here were some Black lives, and they didn't matter 100 years ago. But I think they matter now.” Hahn made those comments in a news conference announcing the decision from the local city council to return that land to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.

Local resident Malissia Clinton wonders what her community would look like had that injustice not taken place: “This community might be teeming with Black folks if we had not destroyed that family. It changed the trajectory, not only of their lives and their offspring but of this community.”

The county plans to give the property back to the Bruce family descendants, then lease the property from them, in order to keep it accessible to the community while providing income for the family. It also authorized $350,000 to spend on public art commemorating the family.

When asked what the original couple would’ve thought of this gesture, Shepard was emphatic. "Oh, they would have loved it. I'm sure they're proud of us right now for fighting to get that back.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Even as the righteous pursue justice, let them not lose hope that injustices can be made right again, for with God all things are possible.

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