Airbnb on Monday removed listings that housed enslaved people in the U.S. days after a TikTok user highlighted a “slave cabin” listing in Mississippi that was advertised as a bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
Wynton Yates, a Black lawyer from New Orleans, criticized the San Francisco-based company last week and posted screen grabs of the listing promoted as “The Panther Burn Cottage at Belmont Plantation” in Greenville, Mississippi. According to the screenshot description, the structure is an “1830s slave cabin” that was also used as a “tenant sharecroppers cabin” and a “medical office for local farmers and their families.”
“If you were to see just the pictures of the inside of it, you’d have no idea (of) the history of that building, and I think for me, that is a mockery of the experience,” Yates, whose clip was viewed more than 2.6 million times, told USA TODAY. “It is the continuation of erasing what the experience of slavery was.”
The property and former Belmont Plantation recently changed ownership in July. Its new owner, Brad Hauser, said it had been a doctor’s office, not “slave quarters” and that it was “the previous owner’s decision to market the building as the place where slaves once slept,” which “strongly opposed.”
Airbnb removed the listing and others known to include former slave quarters in the United States, the company said in a statement.
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“Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb,” Airbnb said in a statement to USA TODAY. “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 address this issue.”
The company said it’s working with experts on developing new policies for dealing with properties tied to slavery.
Dr. Minkah Makalani, associate professor of History and director of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, called for the same kind of respect for places where people were enslaved.
“You wouldn’t have this kind of thing happening where the Holocaust took place,” Makalani said. “Give it the gravitas that it deserves and the reverence that it deserves for those people who lived and died there, suffered there.”
Hauser is also turning to experts and plans to provide guests with a “historically accurate portrayal” of life at The Belmont for everyone who lived there, including the 80-some people who were enslaved.
“I intend to do all I can to right a terrible wrong and, hopefully, regain advertising on Airbnb so The Belmont can contribute to the most urgent demand for truth telling about the history of not only the South but the entire nation,” he said.