Airbnb has a history of utilizing its business model for charitable purposes, like housing refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan, and is involved with a number of other humanitarian organizations and initiatives. However, there have also been a number of customer horror stories associated with some of the hosts that utilize the brand which range from quirky and humorous tales, to those that are downright creepy and invasive.
The popular short-term rental application is now being called out in a viral TikTok for allowing one of its hosts to rent out what used to be slave quarters on a plantation’s property. Entertainment Attorney Wynton Yates (@lawyerwynton) uploaded a video delineating why “this is not OK.”
@lawyerwynton #airbnb this is not ok. #history #civilrights #americanhistory ♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose
Wynton says in the clip: “This is not ok, in the least bit and I know there’s gonna be somebody that says ‘oh you’re looking for controversy where it doesn’t exist.’ No this is an 1830s slave cabin that is up on Airbnb as a bed and breakfast. How do I know that this is slave quarters other than just using my eyes and looking at it? Well, they say it in the listing.”
He points to an image of the Airbnb’s listing, which reads: “This particular structure, the Panther Burn Cabin, is an 1830s slave cabin from the extant Panther Burn Plantation to the south of Belmont.”
Wynton continues, “How is this OK in somebody’s mind to rent this out…a place where human beings were kept as slaves, rent this out as a bed and breakfast.”
The video then transitions to a shot of the “Big House” on the Plantation’s estate: “Here it is that’s it the slave quarters next to the Big House. It’s in Greenville, Mississippi that’s the host, Brad, the ‘super host.’ What really kills me is reviews. ‘Memorable.’ ‘Highly recommend watching the sunset.’ ‘We stayed in the sharecropper cabin and ate in the main house.’ ‘Enjoyed everything about our stay the cottage, the history, the tour, the breakfast and all was great.’”
He rattles off more reviews, “We stayed in the cabin and it was historic but elegant.’ A slave cabin is elegant. ‘What a delightful place to step into history, southern hospitality, and stay a night or two!’ ‘Cool spot way better than a hotel!’ Maybe you’re thinking, OK maybe this’ll give people insight on how enslaved people had to live their living conditions? No not at all. Clawfoot tub, running water, tile, you know, nice lighting fixtures, water, towels, dresser.
Wynton closes out the TikTok by stating that he believes the real harm of renting out renovated slave cabins and bed and breakfasts is: “The history of slavery in this country is constantly denied and now it’s being mocked by being turned into a luxurious vacation spot.”
In a follow-up TikTok post, Wynton confirmed that the Airbnb listing was taken down, most probably as a result of viewers who saw his post and flagged it to the platform.
@lawyerwynton Replying to @tonimadeit it appears that @airbnb has removed the rental listing for the slave quarters #history #civilrights #americanhistory ♬ original sound – Lawyer Wynton
The Daily Dot spoke with Wynton over the phone, where he provided further commentary on the now-viral clip. He mentioned that while the property has been removed from Airbnb, it’s still listed on other sites and services for bookings. Wynton first learned of the Airbnb listing from his brother, who shared it in a family group chat.
“If you’ve been in the South for any amount of time, there’s a huge industry for weddings and events at plantations. They’re so common that people just kind of complain about it and that’s it. This is just a new level of crazy,” Wynton said. He also highlighted the fact that the cabin had been intentionally moved from another plantation to the one in the Airbnb posting, which is “what really took it over the edge for” him.
Wynton elaborated on how the bed and breakfast mocks enslaved people: “That’s the biggest thing about it, the mockery of slavery and the experiences of the people that were enslaved in that space. These people were enslaved in that place. They were forced into hard labor…raped…beaten. They didn’t have anything that was theirs. Not even these shacks were theirs. Within those spaces they made it their own to sleep and eat and be with each other in a place that wasn’t it. This is their one place of refuge [from] just atrocities. Now you’re modernizing it and acting as if those experiences didn’t occur in that space.”
Wynton does believe that these structures should be preserved for historical purposes and even referenced examples of museums that make the focal point of this preservation the peoples who were enslaved there as a means of giving African-Americans deeper insight into their own lineages. The Legacy Museum in Alabama, for instance, is one such institution.
He also added that by turning these cabins into business ventures it ultimately robs enslaved peoples of the one location of respite they may have had, and their descendants of being able to visit the closest thing they have to an ancestral home: “A lot of white Americans in the country have the privilege of visiting their ancestral homes or the place where their ancestors are from. The majority of Black Americans that is not a luxury or a privilege that we have. We don’t know where our heritage is, where our ancestors come from. Who was who or how they got there. Slave cabins are their ancestral home and [white people are] turning it into a bed and breakfast.”
He also added that his parent and grandparents were very proactive in teaching him the history of their family from a very young age: “I’m a Black man in America with parents and grandparents who brought up in the trenches of the civil rights era…my grandfather put slave shackles in my hands [when I was a child] to understand what my ancestors went through.”
He also addressed concerns from other individuals who questioned why he would discuss this particular location and not other “obscene” and “gross” listings, he said that he believes highlighting specific instances of this practice will hopefully open a greater conversation about other listings that similarly turned cabins/plantations into “elegant” hotel experiences. And judging from folks mentioning it in the comments section of his videos, it appears it already has.
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*First Published: Jul 29, 2022, 5:22 pm CDT
Jack Alban is a freelance journalist for the Daily Dot covering trending human interest/social media stories and the reactions real people have to them. He always seeks to incorporate evidence-based studies, current events, and facts pertinent to these stories to create your not-so-average viral post.