Airbnb faced backlash in the days after a TikTok video surfaced about the listing from Wynton Yates, a New Orleans-based entertainment and civil rights attorney.
“The history of slavery in this country is constantly being denied, and now it is being ridiculed by turning it into a luxury vacation spot,” Yates said in a video Friday. Yates, who is black, added, “That’s not good at all.”
Now, Airbnb has apologized and indicated Monday that it is “deleting listings that are known to include former slave locations in the United States.”
“Properties that once housed enslaved people have no place on Airbnb,” Airbnb spokesman Ben Britt said in a statement. “We apologize for any shock or grief caused by the existence of this list, and the like, and that we did not act sooner to address this issue.”
Although the building was a doctor’s office and not a slavery residence, Brad Hauser, who took ownership of the Grenfell estate last month, said in a statement to the Washington Post that it was “the previous owner’s decision to market the building as a place where slaves once slept.” Hauser, who is White, said he “strongly opposed” the previous owner’s decision and pledged to provide guests with “historically accurate pictures” of life at Belmont Plantation.
“I’m not interested in making money from slavery,” said Hauser, 52, who apologized for including “insulting African Americans whose ancestors were slaves.”
It’s unclear how many Airbnb listings show real estate in the US that once housed some millions of enslaved blacks. According to Mike, several properties in Georgia and Louisiana, which were described as residences for slaves, have been removed from Airbnb’s website.
‘These are our ancestors’: Descendants of slaves are changing plantation tourism
Yates, 34, told The Post on Tuesday that he was first informed of the Grenfell list in a group text message. Yates said a friend of his brother had been looking at rental properties in Greenville, about 100 miles northwest of Columbia, South Carolina, and found the Panther Burn Cottage house to be the only available listing.
So when Yates’ brother shared the list in the family group script on Friday, the New Orleans attorney was moved by it and had the same thought: “That’s crazy.”
“Watching farm weddings and events on farms, suburbs, and subdivisions named after farms and farm owners is something I’ve been getting every single day of my life. But that was a new level of disrespect for what slavery was,” Yates said. “To see the space in which the slaves live is being renovated, transformed into a luxury space and rented out, just take my breath away.”
Screenshots from the listing show that the cabin is located next to a 9,000-square-foot mansion with nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Constructed in 1857, the luxurious building is “the last remaining antebellum mansion” in the Mississippi Delta, according to the listing.
Next, the listing indicates the history surrounding the tiny houses.
“This particular structure, the Panther Burn Cabin, is an 1830s slave cabin from the Panther Burn Plantation located south of Belmont,” the listing states. “It was also used as a cabin for tenant farmers and a medical office for local farmers and their families to visit the farm doctor.”
The listing’s previous owner noted that the cabin was moved to Belmont Plantation in 2017 and “has been meticulously restored,” retaining some of the cypress planks used in the original construction built in the 1830s. The Panther Burn Cottage home has been announced on an Airbnb listing as “the last surviving building of the legendary Burning Tiger Farm.”
Despite the history of slaves living in the cabin, Yates noted in his TikTok video that he didn’t deter guests who stayed there from leaving glowing comments about the “memorable” menu. Hauser, through his representative, said the reviews are for an unrelated drug in Arkansas and not the Grenfell List.
“I enjoyed everything about our stay,” a woman commented in July 2021.
Another wrote last October: “We stayed in the cabin and it was historic but elegant.”
“What a great place to get into history, southern hospitality, and stay for a night or two!” One guest said in March.
Yates said the contrast between the Panther Burn Cottage, which housed about 80 enslaved blacks in the 19th century, and the whites it uses today as a pleasant vacation spot, is “amazing.”
It was built by slaves and lived in by slaves who died of overwork, infectious disease, starvation and heartbreak. They died in those places,” Yates told the newspaper. “It wasn’t a comfortable situation.”
After Yates’ TikTok video has been viewed on “Slave Cabins” more than 2.6 million times, Airbnb said it has not only removed all listings that were promoted as former places of slaves, but is also “working with experts to develop new policies that address other properties associated with bondage.”
Hauser told The Post that when he initially asked about the building behind Belmont, the previous owner told him it wasn’t a slave room and was not advertised as such. He said he was “misled” about the booth, and noted that Airbnb and Booking.com have suspended advertising contracts with Belmont “pending further investigation.”
“I intend to do everything in my power to right a fatal mistake, and I hope to restore advertising on Airbnb so that The Belmont can contribute to the most urgent demand for telling the truth about the history of not only the South but the entire nation,” Hauser said in a statement.
Yates said he doesn’t know if Airbnb’s apology will amount to situations like Panther Burn Cottage that will be avoided in the future. When Yates was asked what he would say to the owners of buildings that housed black slaves, he had a clear message: “Stop romanticizing the experience of slavery.”
“Because that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “This is a benefit from slavery.”