Airbnb and new property owner apologize for 'slave cabin' listing

Justin Gamble, CNNUpdated 2nd August 2022
(CNN) — An Airbnb listing for "an 1830s slave cabin" has been removed from the rental site after a TikTok video about the property went viral.
The Panther Burn Cottage located on Belmont Plantation in Greenville, Mississippi, has been removed by Airbnb, and the company apologized for the listing on Monday. The owner has also apologized, saying that the cottage's listing was a leftover from the previous owner, who had locked him out of the social media and property rental accounts until the TikTok post went viral.
"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," Airbnb said in a statement provided to CNN.
The company said it is removing other listings that include former slave quarters in the US and is developing new policies
The new owner of Belmont Plantation, Brad Hauser, also apologized for the listing.
"As the new, three-week owner of The Belmont in Greenville, Mississippi, I apologize for the decision to provide our guests a stay at 'the slave quarters' behind the 1857 antebellum home that is now a bed and breakfast. I also apologize for insulting African Americans whose ancestors were slaves," Hauser said in a statement to CNN.
He also said he was told when he purchased the cottage that it was not a slave quarters because the building was not old enough to have housed enslaved people.
The Airbnb listing, which the company has since removed, says the property is "an 1830s slave cabin."
The Airbnb listing, which the company has since removed, says the property is "an 1830s slave cabin."
courtesy Wynton Yates
In a now private promotional video posted on YouTube by previous ownership, the cabin is said to have been relocated several years ago to the plantation from Panther Burn, Mississippi, and was initially a two-bedroom sharecropper's cabin that was converted into a doctor's office.
Hauser said in his statement that he "strongly opposed the previous owner's decision to market the building as the place where slaves once slept after toiling in the cotton fields in human bondage."
Hauser tells CNN he has no plans to rent out the cabin again.
Joshua B. Cain is listed as the previous owner in 2021 property records reviewed by CNN.
Hauser says Cain did not transfer ownership of online advertising assets associated with the plantation until after the controversy began.
CNN has reached out to the previous owner Joshua Cain for comment.
"This is not OK in the least bit," said Wynton Yates late last week in his TikTok video. Yates became aware of the Airbnb posting when his brother shared it in their family group chat. His original posting had 2.6 million views by midday Tuesday.
"How is this OK in somebody's mind to, to rent this out -- a place where human beings were kept as slaves -- rent this out as a bed and breakfast?" asked Yates, an entertainment attorney in New Orleans, in his viral post.
Wynton Yates captured these images of the cabin before the listing was removed.
Wynton Yates captured these images of the cabin before the listing was removed.
courtesy Wynton Yates
Yates, who is Black, told CNN that renting out the renovated cabin is "an egregious leveling up of this atrocity of just disrespecting and making a mockery of what is the slave experience because we're in a country where we're still experiencing the repercussions of slavery."
In his initial TikTok video about the property, Yates said he was especially upset by the guest reviews.
"We stayed in the cabin and it was historic but elegant," one guest wrote in a review shown in a screengrab in the video and read aloud by Yates. "A slave cabin is elegant," he repeats incredulously.
"The history of slavery in this country is constantly denied, and now it's being mocked by being turned into a luxurious vacation spot," he said on TikTok.
While some viewers of his post have called for such buildings to be destroyed, Yates said in a subsequent post that he believes that these buildings should remain.
Yates told CNN that it's up to owners of plantations or those wishing to purchase them to research the enslaved people who lived and worked on the land so an accurate accounting of history can be given.
He said the attacks on teaching an accurate history of slavery and attempts to erase history will cause future generations to think slavery was a myth.
Hauser, the new owner, told CNN that he is working to find experts who can help him identify people who have lived and were enslaved on the Belmont Plantation to provide an accurate account of history.