Black Beaches

Bruce’s Beach was a small beach resort in the city of Manhattan Beach, California, that was owned by and operated for African Americans. It provided the African American community with opportunities unavailable at other beach areas because of segregation.

As a result of racial friction from disgruntled white neighbors, the property was seized using eminent domainproceedings in the 1920s and closed down. Some of the area was eventually turned into a city park in the 1960s and renamed to bear the Bruce’s Beach name in 2007.

More beaches after the jump

Peck’s Pier was built in 1908[3] by George H. Peck (1856-1940) for whom it was named. Peck was a wealthy real estate developer who owned a lot of property in the area. The pier was located in the area of 33rd and 34th Street and was the only pier in the area open to African Americans.[3] Peck’s Pier and Pavilionwas a “promotional attraction” for dances, parties, picnics and roller skating. According to the city’s website, it was destroyed in a 1913 storm, and the pavilion was destroyed in 1920 due to “timber rot.”[3] Another source, however, suggests Peck’s Pier was torn down by “a combination of storms and social injustice,” the same injustice that also put a stop to Bruce’s Beach, a nearby black-owned beach resort, and chased off black residents.[4]

The town’s first pier, which was conceived to attract new home buyers” above a “newfangled machine to convert the power of the waves into electricity to light the pier”,[4] was built in 1901 (Center Street pier) (where Manhattan Beach Pier is now located) on what became Manhattan Beach Boulevard. Another wooden pier on Marine Avenue also built in 1901.

The Pacific Beach Club was intended to be the “grandest of escapes” and to fulfill the dream of a resort where black people who were restricted from most of the California’s beaches “could enjoy the sand and surf”.[3] Because of segregation black people in Los Angeles and Orange County were limited to the “Ink Well” in Santa Monica and Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach (until the property was seized in an eminent domain after protest from the growing white community surrounding it).[3]

Board members for the resort included “a Who’s Who of black business and civic leaders in Los Angeles at the time” including Joseph B. Bass, editor of theCalifornia Eagle; Frederick Roberts, the first black state legislator in California; and E. Burton Ceruti, a founder of the Los Angeles branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as well as a legal adviser to the group.[3]

The isolated location for the club could be reached by driving the Pacific Coast Highway, “or riding the Pacific Electric railway from Los Angeles to Huntington Beach and walking a mile”. Membership was initially advertised at $50 for an associate membership and $75 for a life membership. A white attorney from Los Angeles, Hal R. Clark, bought the land and leased it to the club.

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