A Mississippi Airbnb host has deleted one of its properties from the service after a popular social media influencer exposed him for renting the former slave cabin out to the public. The owners had marketed the cabin as a luxury accommodation until public backlash said he was making money off America’s ugliest sin.
Entertainment and civil rights lawyer Wynton Yates took to his TikTok profile on July 29 to blast Belmont Plantation for renting out the 19th-century quarters, celebrating that it has all the accommodations and amenities a traveler might want like “its own TV-a new LCD smart TV with basic channels, Netflix, and on-demand channels like HBO, internet radio, and a variety of premium streaming channels including news, lifestyle, and sports networks.”
The listing was originally shared with Yates by his brother, who shared it in their family’s group chat. At first, he said he did not believe it was real but was offended upon investigation to see that it was an authentic listing.
“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 remarked. “To see someone just blatantly make a mockery out of it just didn’t sit right with me.”
In his initial video, he posts a portion of the listing that details the history of the building. It reads, “this particular structure, the Panther Burn Cabin, is an 1830s slave cabin from the extant Panther Burn Plantation to the south of Belmont. It has been also used as a tenant sharecropper’s cabin and a medical office for local farmers and their families to visit the plantation doctor.”
The listing further states the Greensville property has been “meticulously restored,” and for questions (before the location was deleted) to contact Brad Hauser, the super host.
Yates asks, “How is this OK in somebody’s mind to rent out a place where human beings were kept as slaves … rent this out as a bed and breakfast?
Reviews from over a year ago were gloriously positive.
One woman named Katie wrote, “Memorable. Highly recommend watching the sunset!” Another person named Peter wrote, “We stayed in the sharecropper cabin and ate in the main house. The house tour was great and so was the breakfast.”
Kristin, one renter commented, “Enjoyed everything about our stay. The cottage, the history, the tour, breakfast, all of it was great and made for a perfect stop on our cross-country trek!”
“This place was so beautiful and peaceful,” Victoria Lynn said in her review. “We stayed in the cabin and it was (sic) historic but elegant. The bed was very comfortable. He (sic) cabin was stocked with everything we needed plus more. The location is just far enough from town where you felt like you were stepping back into history.”
While many of the reviews were flowery, some were straight to the point. Terry wrote, “Cool spot. Way better than a hotel.”
In Yates’ 1:34 minute commentary he sarcastically remarked, “Maybe you are thinking this will give people insight on how enslaved people had to live [and] their living conditions?”
Quickly, he dismissed that though, showing the claw-foot bathtub, lighting fixtures, towels, dressers, and running water, all things enslaved Africans would not have had in the 1800s..
“The history of slavery is constantly being denied,” he said. “Now, it is being mocked by being turned into a luxurious vacation spot.”
Yates would later declare, “The owner of the property is making money from slavery.”
In the lawyer’s opinion, the people behind the listing simply don’t care about the history of slavery, but would rather romanticize it.
“They don’t care about the true history of that space,” Yates says. “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.”
In a follow-up video, Yates shared that the cabin was actually not originally on the grounds that it currently exists. It was moved there from a different plantation before being renovated.
A few people commented on the videos suggesting the cabin (and others like it) be destroyed or removed, but Yates disagrees. He believes structures connected to the antebellum South should remain and be restored to its original state so that people can learn the truth about American history, no matter how difficult it is to digest.
“I think this kind of stuff should remain. The owners of these properties in the present day should be obligated (or feel obligated) to research and actually find the history of these places,” he said. “Find the people that lived there … their lives … their names … because they are people’s ancestors.”
Another reason why these places should be restored, according to Yates, is that some schools in the South may be changing the way slavery is taught under one new social studies standards proposal that is gaining traction in Texas.
The state’s education board has been asked to call the trans-Atlantic slave trade “involuntary relocation.”
First, an Airbnb spokesperson gave a statement to Mic.com about the slave cabin listing, saying, “We are taking this report seriously and have deactivated all listings associated with this property as we investigate.”
However, the platform still had other slave cabins for rent on the site going for as low as $167 a night, Mic.com reported.
One was listed as a “tiny home” cottage on a Georgia plantation that shares the name of a slave who lived there. Several listings in Louisiana were for slave cabins or homes described as having quarters for enslaved Africans. The listings — all apparently changed since the Mic.com report — variously described the properties as “historically renovated slave quarters” and “restored ‘haunted’ former slave cottage.”
More recently, another Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit apologized in a statement, saying, “Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb. 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.”
An apology also came from Hauser, the current owner of the Greenville property only acquiring within the last month.
The 52-year-old said the property was not a quarters for enslaved people, but a doctor’s accommodation, claiming “the previous owner’s decision to market the building as the place where slaves once slept.”
Hauser said he “strongly opposed” that decision to describe the property that way, despite not originally changing the write up on Airbnb. Now, he said he will provide future renters a “historically accurate portrayal” of life at the Belmont Plantation.
“I am not interested in making money off slavery,” said Hauser and contends he is sorry if the listing insulted “African Americans whose ancestors were slaves.”