The History of Bruce's Beach: The Founding of Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach was founded in 1877 by property developer Austin Corbin. Located on the eastern peninsula of what was once Coney Island, the 500-acre area was intended to be a self-contained summer resort. In 1901, John Merrill purchased the southern part and named it Manhattan after his former home, New York City. The two men were unable to agree on a name for the city, so they flipped a coin and Manhattan won.

In 1912 and 1920, Willa Bruce purchased two lots of land along the Strand in Manhattan Beach. Like many African Americans during the Great Migration, the Bruce family had moved west in search of opportunities to participate in the American dream. Charles and Willa Bruce converted their land into a spa called Bruce's Lodge, which welcomed black bathers from all over Los Angeles and beyond. It became known colloquially as “Bruce Beach”.

In 1995, through a series of land transfers between the city of Manhattan Beach, the state of California and Los Angeles County, the county acquired land originally owned by Charles and Willa Bruce. Three weeks after Lindsey filed her petition to convict Bruce's Beach, on December 6, 1923, Los Bruces and other black landlords submitted their own petition to the Manhattan Beach Board of Directors. Unfortunately, due to racism in Manhattan Beach, where there are currently less than 1% of blacks, correcting these historic errors has been an uphill battle. Most found other properties in Manhattan Beach, but the city prevented Los Bruces from moving their coastal business anywhere else in the city.

Black surfers have also spoken out about racism in Manhattan Beach, where they say white surfers have harassed them and called them racist insults. In 1924, as the city of Manhattan Beach was preparing to take action against Bruce's Beach, neighboring El Segundo began a fight that was eventually successful to invalidate a waterfront lease that had been awarded to black businessman Titus Alexander, who had also planned to establish a resort. The NAACP organized a “swim” in 1927 and, after being arrested for swimming in the waters of Manhattan Beach, the members fought the charges. Located on the southwest coast of Los Angeles, Bruce's Beach enjoys sunny weather all year round and clear skies.

Despite its long history of racism and discrimination against African Americans, Bruce's Beach is now a popular destination for beachgoers from all walks of life.

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