Airbnb has faced backlash in the days since a TikTok video about the listing by Wynton Yates, a New Orleans entertainment and civil rights attorney, went viral.
“The history of slavery in this country is always denied,” Yates said in the video Friday, “and now he’s making fun of it being turned into a luxurious vacation spot.” Yates, who is Black, said, “This is not okay in the least.”
Now, Airbnb has apologized and noted Monday that it is “removing listings known to include former slaves in the United States.”
“Properties that used to house slaves have no place on Airbnb,” Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said in a statement. “We apologize for any trauma or grief caused by the presence of this listing, and others like it, and by not acting sooner to address this issue.”
Brad Hauser, who took over the Greenville property last month, said in a statement to the Washington Post that while the building was a doctor’s office and not a slave quarter, it was “the decision of the previous owner market the market. construction as the place where slaves once slept.” Hauser, who is White, said he was “strongly opposed” to the previous owner’s decision and promised to provide guests with a “historically accurate portrayal” of life at Belmont Plantation.
“I’m not interested in making money off of slavery,” said Hauser, 52, who apologized for listing “offending African Americans whose ancestors were slaves.”
It’s unclear how many Airbnb listings have properties in the United States where some of the millions of enslaved black people once lived. Several properties in Georgia and Louisiana billed as slave quarters have been removed from the Airbnb site, according to Mic.
Yates, 34, told The Post on Tuesday that he was first informed of Greenville’s listing in a group text message. Yates said his brother’s friend was looking for a rental property in Greenville, about 100 miles northwest of Columbia, SC, and found the only listing available was the Panther Burn Cottage.
So when Yates’ brother shared the listing in a family group text Friday, the New Orleans attorney had the same thought: “This is crazy.”
“I’ve seen plantation weddings and plantation events and suburbs and subdivisions named after plantations and plantation owners, which I’ve done every day of my life. But this was a new level of disrespect for what slavery was all about,” Yates said. “To see the space where enslaved people lived being renovated into a luxurious space and let out for rent took my breath away.”
Screenshots of the listing show that the cabin is next to the 9,000-square-foot mansion that has nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Built in 1857, the luxury structure is “the last remaining antebellum house standing” in the Mississippi Delta, according to the listing.
Then, the listing references the history of the much smaller cottage.
“This particular structure, Burnt Panther Cabin, is an 1830s slave cabin from the surviving Burnt Panther Plantation south of Belmont,” the listing says. “It was also used as a cabin for share tenants and as a medical office for local farmers and their families to visit the plantation doctor.”
The previous owner noted in the listing that the cabin was moved to Belmont Plantation in 2017 and “carefully restored,” while retaining some of the cypress boards used in the original built in the 1830s. The Panther Burn Cottage was advertised on the Airbnb listing as “the last surviving structure of the fabled Panther Burn Plantation”.
Despite the history of enslaved people living in the cabin, Yates revealed in his TikTok video that it hasn’t stopped guests who have stayed there from leaving rave reviews on the “memorable” listing. Hauser, through a representative, said the revisions apply to an unrelated property in Arkansas and not the Greenville listing.
“Loved everything about our stay,” said one woman in July 2021.
“We stayed in the cabin and it was historic but elegant,” wrote another last October.
“Great place to soak in history, Southern hospitality, and stay a night or two!” said one guest in March.
The contrast between the Panther Burn House housing about 80 enslaved Black people in the 1800s and White people using it today as a cute luxury vacation spot is “mind-blowing,” Yates said.
“It was built by enslaved people and enslaved people lived there where they died of overwork, infectious disease, starvation and heartbreak. They died in those spaces,” Yates told the Post. “It was not a comfortable situation.”
After Yates’ TikTok video of the “slave cabin” was viewed more than 2.6 million times, Airbnb said it was not only removing all listings promoted as former slave quarters but also “working with experts to develop new policies that address other related properties. slavery.”
Hauser told the Post that when he first inquired about the building behind Belmont, he was told by the previous owner that it was not a cabin for enslaved people and was not being advertised as such. He said he was “confused” about the cabin, and noted how Airbnb and Booking.com have suspended advertising contracts with the Belmont “pending further investigation.”
“I intend to do everything I can to right a terrible injustice and, hopefully, get advertising back on Airbnb so that the Belmont can contribute to the most urgent demand for truth-telling about the history of not just the South but the entire nation,” Hauser said in a statement.
Yates said he doesn’t know if Airbnb’s apology will avoid situations like the Panther Burn Cottage in the future. When asked what he told property owners who once housed buildings that housed Black people as slaves, Yates had a clear message: “Stop romanticizing the experience of slavery.”
“Because this is exactly what it is,” he said. “This is profiting from slavery.”