Manhattan Beach History Council to revise new language on Bruce’s Beach plaque – Daily Breeze

Two new monuments that will commemorate an emerging early 20th-century black enclave in Manhattan Beach – until then city leaders remove residents’ properties – may not go up as quickly as expected.

City Council returned the proposed wording for the plaques to the Bruce’s Beach History Advisory Committee this week to address various concerns and add supporting information. This decision did not require a vote.

When ready, the tongue commemorating the history of Bruce’s Beach and the town’s former black residents will be engraved on the plaques. And the plates will be carved in stone. So the city council members said at this week’s meeting that the language should be as pristine as possible. The plaques will cost $ 20,000 in total.

“We are trying to correct what we did not achieve in 2007,” said Councilor Steve Napolitano, referring to the current plaque at Bruce’s Beach Park that was tabled that year.

A new plaque dedicated to Willa and Charles Bruce, who purchased two plots of land on which they operated a beach resort for African Americans, will approach the original site of Bruce’s Beach Lodge, which today houses a lifeguard building. from LA County. The other will replace the existing plaque – which makes little mention of the entrepreneurial couple – at Bruce’s Beach Park, near Highland Avenue, and will honor the other black families who lost their land, between 26th and 27th Streets, during the ‘a prominent domain procedure.

These individuals include Major Reverend George W. and Ethel Prioleau, Mary R. Sanders, Milton B. and Anna E. Johnson, Elizabeth M. Patterson and James and Lula Slaughter.

Each plaque will also have parcel maps at the bottom and a list of all landowners during that time period, in black and white. But even though white families have also lost their homes in a prominent estate proceeding, the plaques won’t include more information about them. That’s because there’s almost nothing to find, said Kristin Long-Drew, a member of the history advisory board.

White homeowners did not build on their land, Long-Drew said, and were not as involved in the community. Black families, however, were building vacation homes and running businesses that attracted visitors who looked like them, she added.

The city previously planned to install the plaques in December, but that could happen later now that the history board needs to revise the language. There is no date by which the history board will present a new project to the board.

Councilor Hildy Stern suggested that each plaque refer to the other to encourage visitors to know the full story and that the board write a more in-depth explanation of the debates at the eminent estate.

But these might turn out to be the simplest fixes.

The proposed wording goes beyond detailing the legacy of black families who once lived in Manhattan Beach – and describes how some white residents inflicted acts of terrorism on African Americans trying to settle in the new city.

But the references in the Ku Klux Klan language project being part of this were to the board, with members saying there was not enough evidence to support that description.

“We want a set of plaques that are fair, historical and accurate,” said Mayor Suzanne Hadley, “or we don’t want anything; there is no emergency.”

The city council asked the board to find and add evidence to the mentions of KKK involvement. The only source to date is a July 1924 article in the Black-serving California Eagle newspaper.

“The Eagle assumed the Klan” was operating unrestricted along the waterfront, “” including Manhattan Beach, the history board wrote in the draft. “The article suggested that the Klan influenced the board of directors (the version of Manhattan Beach city council in the 1920s) by condemning Bruce’s Beach.

Long-Drew said she had been trying to find the grand jury files since the time to see who exactly was involved in the terror of the black residents. But, she said, the KKK did not keep good records and notoriously tried to remain anonymous, with white hoods being the most infamous example.

A more specific approach, Stern said, might be to further contextualize the climate in the days when the KKK was predominant across the country, so that statements from the Eagle are carried by the racial motivation framework.

“The effort here is to really commemorate what happened in this situation to black people who visited and lived and had businesses in Manhattan Beach,” Stern said. “This report from the Advisory Council on History is that documentation.”

One hurdle the board might face, however, is the lack of records overall – and of the black community at the time.

Duane Shepard, a representative of the Bruce family and a distant descendant, explained this in an interview earlier this year. At the time, it was less common for blacks to read or write, a lingering consequence of the pre-war era. And the written accounts of whites, Shepard said in May, have often made the story of how the black community was treated seem benign.

“At that time, our people neither read nor wrote; we had to write our story by word of mouth, ”Shepard said. “The proof of (our story) is that our people said it happened.”

Councilor Joe Franklin, meanwhile, was concerned that certain words might refer to the city and everyone in it wanting to drive black people out of the city, and asked the board to write more consistent that not all white neighbors at the time were against blacks living and visiting Manhattan Beach.

Hadley, for her part, said at the Tuesday July 20 board meeting that she wanted the most evocative phrases – like “trailblazer,” “racially diverse,” Jim Crow Era “- to be removed from the proposed language.

The mayor also said his council colleagues may bring their own versions of the language to the next plaque discussion.

The History Advisory Committee will address council concerns and bring back the language for a vote at a future meeting.

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