The Crusader Newspaper Group

Slave cabins offered as rental units on Airbnb

They were once the homes of Black slaves who worked long hours for wealthy plantation owners. But several of these cabins in Mississippi were recently available to rent as a bed and breakfast on Airbnb. Now, the popular vacation website is facing a scandal that was exposed after a viral TikTok video was posted this week by entertainment and civil rights attorney Wynton Yates, known on the platform as @LawyerWinton.

Yates highlighted a now-deleted listing in Greenville, Mississippi at “The Panther Burn Cottage @ Belmont Plantation,” in the video.

In the video, the description of the cabins said it was a location where enslaved Black Americans were forced to live in the 1830s. The cabins were later used as a cabin for sharecroppers, and eventually as a medical office. The video also shows Yates over next to the one of the slave cabins.

Initially, Yates said that he was in disbelief as his brother shared the listing of the slave cabins in his family group chat, explaining that he felt the listing made a “mockery” of the brutal history of American slavery.

“Growing up, [my family] would take my siblings and my cousins and I and put slave shackles in our hands so that we could feel the weight of the steel that was put on our ancestors’ bodies to contain them,” Yates shared with the outlet. “To see someone just blatantly make a mockery out of it just didn’t sit right with me.”

The online Black publication The Grio reported that despite the removal of listings related to the Belmont Plantation, Airbnb still had a number of other listings that feature renovated slave cabins as well, including a “tiny home” in Georgia and a New Orleans “suite.”

According to the report, those listings featured former slave quarters that were painted with a sanitized or dulled-down picture that did not sufficiently acknowledge the atrocities connected to the units. In the Georgia unit’s description, the venue’s “rustic charm” was touted.

“They don’t care about the true history of that space,” Yates said. “They care about the plantation in its visual beauty. … They have the privilege of mentally removing themselves from that history because they are not affected by it in the present day.”

USA TODAY reported August 1 that Airbnb is banning from its listings all properties that once housed enslaved people.

“Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb,” the company 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.

“We are removing listings that are known to include former slave quarters in the United States,” Airbnb said. “We are working with experts to develop new policies that address other properties associated with slavery.”

Established in 1857, Belmont Plantation according to its website, is the last antebellum mansion along the river in the Mississippi Delta, standing at over 9,000 square feet. The website said the house and the grounds have undergone an extensive restoration and all rooms are available for weddings, events, tours, B&B accommodations, and corporate retreats! A photo online shows two slave cabins that serve as the backdrop of rows of decorated tables during a festival in 2019.

Yates and some of the commenters under his viral TikTok video suggest that instead of listing the properties as vacation rentals, the cabins could be memorialized as a more productive way to educate modern-day citizens about the cruelty withstood by generations of Black Americans who once dwelled in them.

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