The Airbnb listing in Mississippi, USA, apparently had everything a traveler could ask for in a bed and breakfast accommodation: a suite with exquisite antique furnishings, soft linens, a brand new bathroom and access to Netflix on the smart TV.
But there was something else about the Panther Burn Cottage that the luxury listing proudly advertised: the property was an “1830s slave cabin” that housed slaves on a plantation in Greenville.
Airbnb has faced backlash since a TikTok video about the listing of Wynton Yates, a New Orleans entertainment and civil rights lawyer, went viral.
“The history of slavery in this country is constantly being denied,” Yates said in Friday’s video, “and now it’s being mocked by being turned into a luxurious vacation spot.” Yates, who is black, added: “That’s not right at all.”
Now Airbnb has apologized and noted that it is “removing listings known to include former slave quarters in the United States.”
“Properties that once housed slaves have no place on Airbnb,” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit said in a statement. “We apologize for any trauma or grief created by the presence of this listing, and others like it, and that we did not act sooner to resolve this issue.”
Brad Hauser, who took over ownership of the Greenville estate last month, said in a statement to The Washington Post that although the building had been a medical office and not housing for slaves, it was “the decision of the previous owner to market the building as the place where slaves once slept.” Hauser, who is white, said he “strongly opposed” the previous owner’s decision and pledged to provide guests with a “historically accurate depiction” of life at the Belmont Plantation.
“I’m not interested in making money from slavery,” said Hauser, 52, who apologized for the list “insulting African Americans whose ancestors were slaves.”
It’s unclear how many Airbnb listings feature properties in the United States that once housed some of the millions of enslaved black people. Several properties in Georgia and Louisiana that were advertised as slave housing have since been removed from Airbnb’s site, according to Mic.
Yates, 34, told The Post on Tuesday that he was first told about the Greenville roster in a group text message. Yates said his brother’s friend was looking for properties to rent in Greenville, about 100 miles northwest of Columbia, South Carolina, and found Panther Burn Cottage was the only listing available.
So when Yates’ brother shared the list in the family group text on Friday, the New Orleans attorney was shocked and had the same thought, “This is crazy.”
“Seeing plantation weddings and events on plantations, suburbs and subdivisions named after plantations and plantation owners is something that has disgusted me every day of my life. But it was a new level. disrespect for what slavery was,” Yates said. said. “To see the space where the slaves lived being renovated into a luxurious, rented space took my breath away.”
Screenshots of the listing show the cabin sits next to a 9,000 square foot mansion that has nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Built in 1857, the luxury structure is “the last remaining antebellum mansion” in the Mississippi Delta, according to the listing.
Then the listing refers to the history surrounding the much smaller cottage.
“This particular structure, the Panther Burn Cabin, is an 1830s slave cabin from the existing Panther Burn Plantation south of Belmont,” the listing reads. “It was also used as a sharecropper’s hut and as a doctor’s office for local farmers and their families to consult the plantation doctor.”
The previous owner noted in the listing that the cabin was moved to the Belmont Plantation in 2017 and “meticulously restored”, while retaining some of the cypress planks used in the original construction in the 1830s. The Panther Burn Cottage was advertised on the Airbnb listing as “the last surviving structure of the legendary Panther Burn Plantation”.
Despite the history of slaves living in the cabin, Yates highlighted in his TikTok video how that hasn’t deterred guests who have stayed there from leaving rave reviews from the “memorable” list. Hauser, through a representative, said the notices were for unrelated property in Arkansas and not the Greenville listing.
“We enjoyed everything about our stay,” one woman commented in July 2021.
“We stayed in the cabin and it was historic yet elegant,” wrote another last October.
“What a lovely place to step into history, Southern hospitality and stay a night or two!” said a guest in March.
The contrast between Panther Burn Cottage, home to around 80 enslaved black people in the 1800s, and white people using it today as a pretty, luxury vacation spot is “stunning”, Yates said.
“It was built by slaves and inhabited by slaves where they died of overwork, infectious diseases, hunger and grief. They died in these spaces,” Yates told the Post. “It was not a comfortable situation.”
After Yates’ TikTok video of the “slave shack” was viewed more than 2.6 million times, Airbnb said it was not only removing all listings promoted as former quarters for slaves, but also “was working with experts to develop new policies that address other properties associated with slavery.”
Hauser told the Post that when he initially inquired about the building behind Belmont, the previous owner told him it was not a slave cabin and was not advertised as such. He said he was “misled” about the cabin and noted how Airbnb and Booking.com had suspended advertising contracts with the Belmont “pending further investigation”.
“I intend to do everything I can to right a terrible wrong and hopefully get the publicity back on Airbnb so The Belmont can contribute to the most urgent demand for truth in history not only of the South, but of the whole nation,” Hauser said. said in a statement.
Yates said he doesn’t know if Airbnb’s apology will amount to avoiding situations like the Panther Burn Cottage in the future. When asked what he would say to owners of buildings that once housed enslaved black people, Yates had a clear message: “Stop romanticizing the experience of slavery.”
“Because it is exactly what it is,” he said. “It’s profiting from slavery.”
The Washington Post
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