Airbnb bans listings of homes where enslaved people formerly stayed

Francis Akhalbey December 20, 2022
Airbnb will no longer permit renters to list home where enslaved people formerly stayed -- Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher

In an anti-discrimination report recently released by Airbnb, the short-term rental website announced that it will no longer permit renters to list homes where enslaved people formerly stayed. According to BuzzFeed News, the new policy applies to properties in the United States.

In the details of the policy that was released on Tuesday, Airbnb said it will not allow people to list any home on a plantation “if structures that existed during the time of slavery are still present on the property.” The company also said it will ban any property that accommodated enslaved people and that was purposely constructed for that, adding that it will also not allow renters to use “slavery-related features” of structures as means of marketing. 

The company, however, said it will continue to allow the listing of some educational tours or programs about the history of slavery “when undertaken with reputable partners and experts.” 

Historic preservation architect Jobie Hill as well as the online racial justice organization, Color of Change, helped the company curate the new policy. In 2019, Color of Change urged websites to cease the marketing of plantations that relied on slave labor as romantic places to hold weddings.

Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit told the news outlet that the company is currently removing listings and “will continue to evaluate cases as they arise.” “Currently we have removed listings and experiences associated with roughly 30 properties that are violating our policies,” Breit added.

Deputy senior campaign director for Color of Change, Evan Feeney, also referred to the new policy by Airbnb as an “industry-leading prohibition on the glorification and marketing of slavery”, adding that it is their hope other vacation rental companies follow suit. 

“The only place now where plantations will be able to be listed [on Airbnb] is through specifically curated experiences that have historical value and are not meant to be a form of profit or entertainment,” Feeney said.

Feeney also said they contacted Airbnb in 2019 after they noticed there were listings of plantations where people were enslaved, BuzzFeed News reported. In July, the company was called out after a viral TikTok video showed the listing of a “slave cabin.”

The listing in question referred to the Mississippi-based structure as “an 1830s slave cabin” that “has also been used as a tenant sharecroppers cabin.” The property, known as the Panther Burn Cottage, was also marketed as having “wide cypress boards [that] are original to the first build in the 1830s.”

“This is not OK in the least bit,” Wynton Yates, a lawyer who shared the video on TikTok, said. “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?”

In the wake of the criticism, Airbnb and the owner of the property rendered an apology. The company also took down the listing. “Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb,” the rental website said at the time. 

Feeney also said other renters on Airbnb similarly marketed properties that enslaved people “as a place of happiness and cheer and like, good ol’ days.”

“These places really should be remembered for the hardships and horrific acts that happened here. They should not be a source of profit and entertainment,” he added. 

“Just the same way that we would be appalled if someone was trying to rent out concentration camps in Austria and Germany and Poland as summer getaways, we should be equally as appalled here in the United States when someone’s trying to rent out houses where Black folks were enslaved for hundreds of years.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 20, 2022


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