Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard’s primary goal is to defend his tribe. His top priority is the Bruce family, his extended relatives whose descendants are on track to receive land taken from them nearly a century ago.
It’s been a challenge for years to reobtain the beachfront property seized from Charles and Willa Bruce — a couple who purchased land in Manhattan Beach, California and created a “sanctuary” for Black residents to enjoy the beach amid racial discrimination in the early 1900s.
“It was a very important place because there was no other place along the coast of California where African Americans could actually go and enjoy the water,” Shepard, the Bruce family historian and spokesperson, told Insider.
Bruce’s Beach Lodge faced intimidation from white residents and the Ku Klux Klan, but the couple didn’t back down, Shepard said. The property was eventually taken from the family in 1924 by the city council, which used eminent domain under the guise of building a park. It remained untouched for years.
Willa and Charles only received only about $14,000 in compensation after taking legal action, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials previously told CNN the land is worth approximately $75 million that subsequent generations of the Bruce family have missed out on. Shepard said the land was worth between $35 and $75 million, but officials told Insider in a statement the land has not yet been assessed and would be “in the coming months.”
It wasn’t until 2007 that a plaque was made to acknowledge the Bruces, but it contained “misinformation,” Shepard said. The plaque points to Gregory Peck, a white landowner, saying he “made it possible” for the beachfront property to be open to “all people.”
Peck’s role in securing the land for Black visitors has since been widely disputed, as The LA Times reported last year that the developer’s property was guarded by security, forcing beachgoers to walk an extra half mile to the ocean.
As crowds gathered across the country in response to the police killing of George Floyd in March 2020, the Bruce family’s mission to get their land back underwent a refreshed effort in collaboration with local activists.
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SOURCE: Business Insider, Taylor Ardrey