California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to return beachfront property in Southern California to the descendants of a Black couple, the Associated Press reported.
Nearly a century ago, Willa and Charles Bruce had their land stolen from them and were driven out of the area by the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1912, the couple established Bruce’s Beach, the first Black resort on the West Coast. The town of Manhattan Beach seized the property in 1924 intending to build a park.
The land was unused for years and then was transferred to the state in 1948. The land was transferred to Los Angeles County for beach operations in 1995 and has been used to train lifeguards.
Before a crowd at Bruce’s Beach, Newsom signed Senate Bill 796 into law on Thursday in the presence of Willa and Charles’ great-great-grandson Anthony Bruce.
“As we move to remedy this nearly century-old injustice, California takes another step furthering our commitment to making the California Dream a reality for communities that were shamefully shut out by a history of racist exclusion,” Newsom said in a statement. “We know our work is just beginning to make amends for our past, and California will not shy from confronting the structural racism and bias that people of color face to this day.”
Newsom offered a public apology to the Bruce family for the grave injustice that the family was subjected to for almost 100 years.
“I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them,” Newsom said at the bill signing, according to NBC Los Angeles. “We haven’t always had a proud past.”
Newsom added that the move could be the start of a broader call for reparations.
“This can be catalytic,” he said. “What we’re doing here today can be done and replicated anywhere else.”
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who pushed the government to transfer the land, said the Bruce family would almost certainly be millionaires now if the property had not been stolen.
“The law was used to steal this property 100 years ago, and the law today will give it back,” Hahn said