A California Town Stole a Black-Owned Resort—Will the Family Get Reparations?

Over 100 years later, tensions are playing out in Manhattan Beach, in what may be a test case of land reparations for African Americans.
August 19, 2021, 7:25pm
Courtesy of the California African American Museum
Photo courtesy of the California African American Museum

In 1912, a Black couple named Charles and Willa Bruce bought a parcel of land in Manhattan Beach, California, and turned it into a successful seaside resort for Black Californians. Until they were driven out of town—by white city officials who didn’t want Black neighbors.

Now, a hundred years later, a new state law will allow for the return of the property to the Bruces' descendants. But the city of Manhattan Beach refuses to apologize for its actions and still has to work out details of the settlement.

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“We're sitting smack dead in the center of Bruce's Beach park on the grass. …Directly in front of us is the ocean… I see people surfing, walking, smiling, enjoying… but I don't see Black people. You want us to compromise? Black people are always asked to compromise. We’re tired of it,” said Kavon Ward, a local activist working to get the Bruce family compensated.

VICE producer Julia Nutter heads to Manhattan Beach to explore the tensions playing out right now in what may be a test case of land reparations for African Americans.

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MORE: 

Historian Alison Rose Jefferson on the history of African American Leisure in Southern California

A tale of two reckonings: How should Manhattan Beach atone for its racist past? (LA Times)

Activist launches national project to help Black families reclaim their land (Daily Breeze)

How one city’s racial reckoning is putting California’s racist history front and center. (NBC News)

CREDITS: 

Reported and produced by Julia Nutter. 

VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Sophie Kazis (Kay-ziss), Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca (Ya-Mo-Ka), Julia Nutter, and Sayre Quevedo. Our senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Our associate producers are Sam Egan, and Adreanna Rodriguez. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone, Pran Bandi and Kyle Murdock. 

Our executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio. Production coordination by Steph Brown. 

Fact-checking by Nicole Pasulka. 

Theme music by Steve Bone.