Bruce's Beach

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Winter view from the top of Bruce's Beach park (2009)

Bruce's Beach was a beach resort in the city of Manhattan Beach (in Los Angeles County, California), that was owned by and operated for African Americans. It provided the African American community with opportunities unavailable at other beach areas because of racial segregation.

Located at 26th Street and Highland Avenue, the property was acquired by the city via eminent domain proceedings in the 1920s and closed down. Some of the area was eventually turned into a city park in the 1960s and renamed Bruce's Beach in 2007.

History[edit]

While many historians credit George H. Peck (1856–1940), a wealthy developer and the founder of Manhattan Beach, for having "bucked" the practice of racial exclusion,[1] Peck created barriers to deter Black out-of-town visitors to Bruce's Beach. To reach the ocean, visitors had to walk an extra half mile around property owned by Peck, who had lined it with security and “No Trespassing” signs.[2]

Willa and Charles Bruce bought a property in the strand area for $1,225 that was set aside from Henry Willard in 1912, and added on three lots.[1] They established a resort and named it for Mrs. Bruce.[3]

The development included a bathhouse and dining house for blacks, whose access to public beaches was highly restricted.[4] Aside from the blacks-only beach resort, Manhattan Beach was "an otherwise lily-white community" and blacks only had limited access to beaches; Mrs. Bruce's initiative "defiantly transgressed these racial boundaries."[5] It was not the only beach attraction available to black people; there was also Peck's Pier and pavilion on 34th Street,[6] a section of Santa Monica State Beach referred to as the "Ink Well", and the Pacific Beach Club in Orange County. As Los Angeles's population increased and property values soared in the 1920s, black people in the area suffered from increased racial tension, before eminent domain proceedings started by the city forced the club to close down.[1]

Modern history[edit]

Under the pretense of building a city park, the city of Manhattan Beach took control of the land from the Bruce family, and they were evicted from the land.[7] It was not until 2007 that this was acknowledged by the city and the beach was renamed Bruce's Beach.[8]

In the 1950s, city officials began to worry that family members might sue to regain their land unless it was used for the purpose for which it had been originally taken.[2] In the 1960s, the property, which had been vacant for decades, was made into a city park first called Bayview Terrace Park, then Parque Culiacan. In 2006, the Manhattan Beach City Council decided to rename the park, "commemorating our community's understanding that friendship, goodwill and respect for all begins within our own boundaries and extends to the world community. All are welcome."[3] It was ceremoniously renamed “Bruce’s Beach” in March 2007[9] during an event exhibiting "a deep tide of goodwill."[10]

The park is on a slope overlooking the ocean and includes rolling grassy terraces with benches and small trees. It is located a few blocks from the beach, between 26th and 27th Street, and runs west from Highland Avenue to Manhattan Avenue.[3]

On October 20, 2020, in response to the George Floyd protests highlighting the past racism faced by Bruce's Beach, the city council created the "Bruce’s Beach Task Force", which consisted of 13 members.[11] The task force soon faced opposition from the anonymous group, "Concerned Residents of MB". The anonymous group paid a two-page advertisement on The Beach Reporter, claiming that the task force used racism to "grab power".[12]

On April 20, 2021, the same day that Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, LA County Supervisors voted unanimously to approve returning Bruce's Beach to the family's descendants. The property to be returned was estimated to be worth $75 million at the time. "If the plan is approved, the county will have 60 days to create a timeline for the land transfer and determine whether or not the lifeguard station [located on the property] will have to move" (CBSLA Staff). [13]

Literature[edit]

  • "What's the Matter with Bruce's Beach?". California Eagle. July 1, 1927.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Murphy, Michelle (June 2006). "Parks and Recreation Commission Recommends Changing Park Name" (PDF). The Manhattan Beach Observer. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  2. ^ a b Xia, Rosanna (2020-08-02). "Manhattan Beach was once home to Black beachgoers, but the city ran them out. Now it faces a reckoning". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  3. ^ a b c Pring, Dawnya (2006-12-07). "City Council wrap". The Beach Reporter. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  4. ^ Flamming, Douglas (2006). Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24990-5.
  5. ^ Sides, Josh (2003). L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. University of California Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-520-23841-1.
  6. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (1996-11-29). "City Smart". Los Angeles Times. p. B.2. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  7. ^ Zinzi, Janna A. (August 1, 2020). "The Tragic History of L.A.'s Black Family Beach Havens". Daily Beast. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  8. ^ Schoch, Deborah (2007-04-01). "A deep tide of goodwill at Bruce's Beach". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-07-27. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  9. ^ "The History of Bruce's Beach, California". Weekend America. 2007-03-31. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  10. ^ Schoch, Deborah (2007-04-01). "A deep tide of goodwill at Bruce's Beach; Hundreds gather at a small Manhattan Beach park to commemorate a black couple forced to give up their profitable resort in the 1920s". Los Angeles Times. pp. B.3. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  11. ^ Hadley, Suzanne (December 24, 2020). "Manhattan Beach State of the City: Rallying to protect small beach town during the pandemic". The Beach Reporter. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  12. ^ McDermott, Mark (18 March 2021). "Racial Reckoning: Manhattan Beach City Council stops short of issuing a Bruce's Beach apology". Easy Reader News. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  13. ^ CBSLA Staff, NA. "LA County Supervisors Vote To Return Bruce's Beach To Owners' Descendants". losangeles.cbslocal.com. CBS Los Angeles. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  14. ^ "What's the Matter with Bruce's Beach?". California Eagle. 41 (4). July 1, 1927. Retrieved March 20, 2021.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°53′40″N 118°24′56″W / 33.89444°N 118.41556°W / 33.89444; -118.41556