An old case which has sparked national “condemnation” was the 1924 taking of “Bruce’s Beach” in Manhattan Beach, California. The resort was established by Willa and Charles Bruce in 1912. It was a destination where black tourists could swim, dance, eat and rest.
The City claimed that it needed the property for a public park, but left it undeveloped. Today it is used to train lifeguards.
Manhattan Beach has been grappling with the history of Bruce’s Beach for years.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin the process of transferring the property to the descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce. Returning Bruce’s Beach to the family that first developed the land is part of California’s broader push toward reckoning with its checkered past.
California’s use of the awesome power of eminent domain for racist purposes is not isolated. Urban renewal projects with their necessary “blight” designation were frequently used to uproot minority communities.
Urban renewal redevelopment was often given the derogatory reference as “negro removal.”
The City of Atlanta, which is often referred to as “The Black Mecca,” is the setting for an urban renewal in the historical Peoplestown neighborhood. The homeowners are being sued by the City of Atlanta to evict them and replace their homes with a park and pond to “prevent flooding.” A claim that a former City of Atlanta engineer admitted was unnecessary on the record.
Minority communities have frequently complained that racism has been used to uproot minority communities.
Courts should consider any allegation of racism with particular care.