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Complaints about African American Beach Resort (1912)

This newspaper article was published in the Los Angeles Times on June 27, 1912 after white landowners began harassing guests at Bruce’s Beach, an African American beach resort. Bruce's Beach originated when Mrs. Willa Bruce's purchased of a lot of land on Manhattan Beach and established a resort for Black families. Between 1919-1926, six more African Americans purchased property in the area, making it an even more popular leisure destination for Black people. White landowners nearby sought to intimidate Black proprietors and to use their property rights to prevent African American visitors from accessing the beach. Eventually, through “eminent domain,” the city government shut down the grounds in 1924. Eminent domain refers to the right of the government to seize private property for public use. All the buildings were razed in 1927.

June 27, 1912
Colored People’s Resort Meets With Opposition

REDONDO BEACH, June 24.--The establishment of a small summer resort for Negroes at North Manhattan Beach has created great agitation among the white property owners of adjoining land.

The new summer resort which at present consists of a small portable cottage with a stand in front where soda pop and lunches are sold, and two dressing tents with shower baths and a supply of fifty bathing suits, was opened last Monday by the dusky proprietor and patronized by many colored people from Los Angeles.

Yesterday when a good-sized Sunday crowd of pleasure seekers had gathered and donned their bathing suits to disport in the ocean, they were confronted by two deputy Constables who warned them against crossing the strip of land in front of Mrs. Bruces’ property to reach the ocean.

For a distance of over half a mile from Peck’s pier to Twenty-fourth street, a strip of ocean frontage is owned by George H. Peck, who also owns several hundred acres of land in the Manhattan addition where Mrs. Bruces’ property is situated. This strip has been staked off and ‘no trespassing’ signs put up and consequently the bathers yesterday could not get to the beach without walking beyond Peck’s strip of ocean frontage.

This small inconvenience, however, did not deter the bathers, on pleasure bent, from walking the half mile around Peck’s land and spending the day swimming and jumping the breakers. All along the beach in front of the prohibited strip which was patroled by the constables, the light-hearted ‘cullud’ people frolicked in the breakers or lay on the warm sand enjoying the sea breezes.

Mrs. Bruce, a stout Negress whose home is at No. 1024 Santa Fe avenue, says most emphatically that she is there to stay, and that she will continue to rent her bathing suits to people of her race. She owns a lot on Manhattan avenue, 33x100 feet, for which she paid $1225, a high price compared to the cost of nearby lots. She says she purchased the property from Henry Willard, a real estate dealer of Los Angeles.

The entire next block in the Manhattan addition between Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh streets has been leased to Milton T. Lewis, a colored real estate dealer, by Willard. Lewis proposes to rent space for tents on this block to Negroes who desire to come to the beach.

The situation, as described by Mrs. Bruce, has a pathetic side, for she avers [?] Negroes cannot have bathing privileges at any of the bath-houses along the coast, and all they desire is a little resort of their own to which they might go and enjoy the ocean. ‘Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it.’

She and her associates feel that it is unjust that they should not be allowed to ‘have a little breathing space’ at the seaside where they might have a holiday.

Her husband is a chef on a dining-car that runs between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

Property-owners of the Caucasian race who have property surrounding the new resort deplore the state of affairs, but will try to find a remedy, if the Negroes try to stay.

Source | Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1912. https://latimes.newspapers.com/clip/51981675/willa-bruce/
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | “Complaints about African American Beach Resort (1912),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 18, 2024, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/2952.

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