California Governor Gavin newsom signed a landmark bill on Thursday that will allow The Angels County to return beachfront lands confiscated from two former black owners in the 1920s to their descendants.
The new law is seen as a victory for advocates of reparations.
“As the governor of California, let me do what Manhattan Beach is apparently unwilling to do, and I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them a century ago,” the governor said on the ground in Manhattan Beach. , according to The Associated Press. “I say this as a proud Californian, but also aware that we have not always had a proud past.”
Newsom said the move could be “catalytic,” allowing land to be returned to others who lost it to racism.
Willa’s great-great-grandson and Charles Bruce and other descendants joined Newsom in signing.
“There are other families waiting this very day to get their land back,” Cousin Patricia Bruce told AP.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who spearheaded a government initiative to transfer the land, said the heirs would almost certainly be millionaires now if the property had not been taken.
“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and today’s law will give it back,” Hahn said.
Willa and Charles Bruce bought the two parcels of land in Los Angeles County’s Manhattan Beach in 1912 and ran a resort that catered to blacks.
The Bruces and other black families faced harassment from racist white neighbors and in 1924 the city condemned the black-owned lots and seized them through eminent domain, citing the need for a public park, now Bruce’s Beach Park, but it was empty. during years. .
The couple sued for racial discrimination and eventually received $ 14,500 but never got their land back, according to Los Angeles Times.
In 1948, Manhattan Beach ceded the land from the Bruces to the state and in 1995, the state gave it to Los Angeles County, which was not legally authorized to return it to the Bruces. The new law changes that.
The proposal was unanimously approved by state lawmakers earlier this month.
The effort to give back the land began last summer during the fight against racism. protest movement and after a petition circulating demanding repairs on the beach, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The bill “represents economic and historical justice,” State Senator Steven Bradford told the Daily News, “and is a model of what reparations can really look like.”
In the meantime, the county has outlined the steps required to move forward with the transfer, including assessing the value of the parcels and attempting to find a means to reduce the tax burden on the heirs.
The county also needs to vet the Bruces’ legal heirs and possibly find a new site for the lifeguard training headquarters. One option would be for the heirs to rent the land to the county to continue using it.
Associated Press contributed to this report.