AirBnb listing is not the first aggressive attempt to commercialize slave cabins

The Airbnb listing was simple: a charming Mississippi cottage with old-fashioned decor and access to Wi-Fi and streaming platforms. listing in Louisiana and Georgia Similar were the details, painting them as charming, rustic homes perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway.

The now-deleted listings had one major thing in common, however: they were once home to slaves.

recent dissatisfaction with the list Slave cabins began with the Panther Burn Cottage, a Greenville, Mississippi, slave cabin that was built on a plantation in the 1800s. Wynton Yates, a black lawyer from New Orleans, posted a now-viral TIC Toc Regarding the Airbnb listing late last month. He said he was shocked when he saw the list. “My first reaction was ‘This is wild! How does anyone think this is okay?'” Yates told NBC News. “I was shocked by what I was seeing. It is disrespectful to all the people who lived and died in those places. ,

Airbnb has since apologized and removed the Mississippi list and any others “known to contain former slave quarters in the United States.” But the incident has again raised the concerns of conservationists about the condition of former slave dwellings in the country. Conservationists such as Joseph McGill Jr., the founder of slave housing projectIt is said that the commercialization of plantation sites has been happening for decades.

“I have come across slave dwellings with many uses such as rental space, that shed, man caves, garages. I have seen one being used as the public rest room of all things!” McGill said. “I’ve been at this for 12 years and what happened is nothing new. What’s new is that now TikTok exists and there’s this thing called cancel culture. McGill added people who own such rentals. Are: “In their mind and in their eyes, they’re not doing anything wrong.”

Image: Neil-Cochran House Museum
The Slave Quarter at the Neil-Cochran House Museum.Tara Dudley

history vs beauty

Historic American Building Survey, a federal conservation program created in 1933, lists more than 400 slave homes in the United States. But, over the decades, many slave dwellings have disappeared, either destroyed, or turned into bed and breakfasts, offices, garages, etc., according to conservationist Joby Hill, founder of Saving Slave House Project, In some cases, residents are not aware that small structures on private property were slave dwellings until Hill informed them. told atlas obscura, And long before Airbnb started listing slave cabins, the homes served as rustic cottages for travelers. For conservationists, it is another example of people benefiting from the ills of slavery, but for some travelers, the site’s history is precisely what attracted them to stay.

According to the Airbnb site, last October a man living at Panther Burn Cottage left a positive review about the former slave cabin on the listing, writing that the location made them feel like they were “stepping back in history.” Huh.”

“This place was gorgeous and peaceful. We stayed in the cabin and it was a (sic) historic but elegant,” wrote the user, “the cabin had everything we needed and more.” The reviewer said they would recommend the cottage and are looking forward to visiting again and living in the main house on the plantation.

In Virginia, the Prospect Hill Plantation Inn offers accommodations in the Slave Quarter with names such as “Boys Log Cabin” and “Uncle Guy’s Loft”, described as a small carpeted room overlooking “Fifteen Fields”. -Sleeping quarters for hands”. .” A reviewer who lived in the Slave Quarter of Prospect Hill in 2014 Tripadvisor. but praised the inn for its “amazing history”, and that the antiquity of the site contributed to the “attraction of the plantation”.

“We stayed for the night at Uncle Guy’s loft where apparently Das lived during the colder months. Initially, considering how old the plantation is, I thought this place might be somewhat scary and I would stay up all night and not be able to sleep,” wrote the guest. “However, the loft is actually very comfortable and I wasn’t really freaked out once I got into the room – doesn’t give off a creepy vibe, but is more of a really casual vibe – it’s hard to pull off like this (sic) old location.

Reviewers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

In 1985, the original owners of the Prospect Hill Inn, Bill Sheehan, and his wife, Mireille, claimed that Washington Post Installing everything from the air conditioning to the bathrooms but maintaining “the original character, including the fireplace and veranda,” about the renovation of the main house and former slave quarters.

Sheehan said at the time, “So we found this crumbling old plantation and put every penny of our lifetime savings and all the money we borrowed.”

Meanwhile, other plantations allow people to spend the night in some of its buildings, but draw the line at slave dwellings. At the Wilton House Museum in Hartfield, Virginia, up to six people are allowed and invited to rent the master home Make use of the slave quarters of the plantation “To think about what it must have been like to live and work in this place almost 200 years ago.” A spokesperson said the cabin “is not set up for overnight stays.”

In Louisiana, the Destrahan Plantation serves as a museum with guided tours, exhibits, and educational programming. Plantation owners offer overnight stays at “Marguerite”, a slave-era meeting hall plantation named after a slave cook. Tracy Smith, executive director of Destrahan Plantation, denied the claim that guests can rent slave quarters on the property. “We have slave cabins here, but they are part of our tour. And we take that very seriously,” Smith told NBC News. “We never rent slave cabins on Airbnb or any overnight accommodations Huh.”

Image: Green Hill Plantation
The Slave Cabin at Green Hill Plantation in Campbell County, Virginia, photographed in 1933.Library of Congress / Historic American Building Survey

conservation efforts

Hill, which is building a database of slave homes in America, and McGill have devoted themselves to documenting slave dwellings across the country. McGill recently visited The Slave Quarter at the Neil-Cochran House Museum in Austin, which museum officials discovered in 2016 and determined to be the only “intact and publicly accessible slave dwelling” located within the boundaries of Austin’s original townsite.

Rowena Das, executive director of the Neil-Cochran House Museum, said she initially thought the small stone building was a common addition to the Neil-Cochran House, which was built in the 1850s, but soon realized it was Due to its size and scarcity, it should have been a slave quarter. of facilities. She then partnered with Tara Dudley, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, to learn all she could about the property. He traced the stories of people who lived in the quarter or worked near the property. The museum has since partnered with the university to launch “Reckoning with the Past: The Untold Story of Race in Austin”, with tours and other programming to restore the Slave Quarter and to share the building’s connections. There is a project to be performed more historically accurate. for slavery in Austin.

Dash said he was not aware that travel sites such as Airbnb contained slave dwellings, but questioned whether these spaces could be converted into rentable properties while maintaining the home’s historic integrity. .

“If it was a slave dwelling, it was completed before 1865 and that means no plumbing, no electricity, generally they were one-room structures,” Das said.

“So if you’re trying to rent it today, you have to change the building so that it can be made habitable by people with contemporary expectations. You’re missing the original context. I believe in adaptive reuse. I’d rather turn the structures into something functional rather than be torn down. But to market the space as ‘come into a slave’s abode’ just sounds so deaf to me. You with that listing What are you really trying to achieve?”

For black Americans looking to track their lineage, the Slave Quarter could be a key piece in mass-printed family trees out of the slave trade and systemic racism through everything from lack of record keeping urban renewal, David Greene, University of Virginia professor and amateur genealogist, was able in 2020, to visit home His great-great-great-great grandmother, Ann Redd, who worked on the property near Brownsburg.

Green said the old cabin, now on private property, had gone down and what he would expect from an abandoned slave building. He said he couldn’t imagine a place so meaningful has been turned into an Airbnb listing.

“I’d have a problem with that. Especially if they go with the ‘Antebellum, Good South theme,'” Green said. “To say that today someone has rented a house to that slave, without thinking about what it means for that slave to be there … I would say that is disgraceful. I think it is my ancestors’ Respect is about respect.”

In a statement to NBC News, Airbnb spokesman Ben Breitt said, “We apologize for any trauma or grief from the appearance of this listing and the likes of it, and we’ve taken immediate action to address this issue.” Didn’t.” Breit said the company is working with experts to develop new policies that address listings linked to slavery.

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