You wouldn’t know it today, but Manhattan Beach in California was once a destination, a playground for Black families in southern California – and there were others. Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson, researcher and native Californian tells the remarkable story of the legacy of these places in the book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era.
Note: This interview was recorded prior to the April 20, 2021, LA County Board of Supervisors vote to begin the process of returning the land to the Bruce family.
Highlights of the interview are included for convenient listening.
- Early Black presence in southern California (0:00)
- Diversity and confidence (4:23)
- Boosters – leaders of the movement (4:58)
- The Bruce family (Willa and Charles) creates a place to play (6:05)
- Discrimination on the beachfront (8:22)
- Bruce’s Beach is taken away, other Black landowners (12:01)
- Legacy of other southern California beach communities (14:35)
- Still opportunity to see Black beach heritage (17:24)
- Bathing Girl and Children Contest and Beauty Parade (18:42)
- The current state of Bruce’s Beach (22:44)
- The importance of telling the story (25:54)
- A beach town seized a couple’s land in 1920. Now that family could get it back, The Guardian, April 17, 2021 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/17/bruces-beach-willa-charles-manhattan-beach-la-county
- LA County Supervisors approve plan to return Bruce’s Beach land to descendants, April 20, 2021, Spectrum News https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/la-west/politics/2021/04/20/la-county-supervisors-approve-plan-to-return-bruce-s-beach-land
- Bruce’s Beach, The Pretty Park with a Stormy Past, California Beaches https://www.californiabeaches.com/bruces-beach-park-history/
- Op-Ed: What Manhattan Beach’s racist land grab really meant, April 5, 2021, Los Angeles Times https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-04-05/manhattan-beach-bruces-beach-racist-land-grab
- Huntington Beach and the Black Beach Club Erased from History, February 24, 2021, California Historical Society https://californiahistoricalsociety.org/blog/huntington-beach-and-the-black-beach-club-erased-from-history/
- Bruce’s Beach can return to descendants of Black family in landmark move signed by Newsom, September 30, 2021, Los Angeles Times https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-09-30/newsom-signs-law-to-return-bruces-beach-black-family