Airbnb recently announced in an anti-discrimination report that the short-term rental website will no longer allow renters to list homes where enslaved people previously stayed. The new policy, according to BuzzFeed News, applies to properties in the United States.
Airbnb 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,” according to the policy details released on Tuesday. The company also stated that it will prohibit renters from using “slavery-related features” of structures as a marketing tool if the property accommodated enslaved people and was purposefully built for that purpose.
However, the company stated that it will continue to allow the listing of some educational tours or programs about slavery’s history “when undertaken with reputable partners and experts.”
Historic preservation architect Jobie Hill and the online racial justice organization Color of Change both assisted the company in developing the new policy. In 2019, Color of Change urged websites to stop marketing plantations that used slave labor as romantic wedding venues.
According to Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit, the company is currently removing listings and “will continue to evaluate cases as they arise.” “We have currently removed listings and experiences associated with approximately 30 properties that violate our policies,” Breit added.
Evan Feeney, Deputy Senior Campaign Director for Color of Change, described Airbnb’s new policy as a “industry-leading prohibition on the glorification and marketing of slavery,” adding that they hope other vacation rental companies will 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 stated that they contacted Airbnb in 2019 after discovering listings for plantations where people were enslaved, according to BuzzFeed News. In July, the company was called out after a TikTok video went viral showing a listing for 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.”