Airbnb Listings Latest Case of Trivializing, Commercializing Slave Cabins

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tags: slavery, historic preservation, public history

The Airbnb listing was simple: a charming Mississippi cottage with old-fashioned decor and access to Wi-Fi and streaming platforms. Listings in Louisiana and Georgia had similar descriptions, portraying them as charming, rustic homes perfect for a cozy weekend getaway.

The now-removed listings had one major thing in common, though: They were once home to those enslaved.

Recent outrage over the listed slave cabins started with the Panther Burn Cottage, a Greenville, Mississippi, slave cabin built on a plantation in the 1800s. Wynton Yates, a Black lawyer from New Orleans, posted a now-viral TikTok about the Airbnb listing late last month. He said he was shocked when he saw the listing. “My first reaction was ‘This is wild! How does anybody think this is OK?’” Yates told NBC News. “I was appalled by what I was looking at. It’s just disrespectful to all of the people who lived and died in those spaces.”

Airbnb has since apologized and removed the Mississippi listing and any others “known to include former slave quarters in the United States.” But the incident has renewed concerns from preservationists about the state of former slave dwellings in the country. Preservationists like Joseph McGill Jr., founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, say the commercialization of plantation sites has been happening for decades. 

“I’ve come across slave dwellings with many uses like rental spaces, she sheds, man caves, garages. I’ve even come across one being used as a public restroom of all things!” McGill said. “I’ve been at this for 12 years and what happened is nothing new. What is new is that now TikTok exists, and this thing called cancel culture exists.” McGill added of those who own such rentals: “In their minds and in their eyes, they’re doing nothing wrong.” 

Read entire article at NBC News