Louisville native revives and celebrates Black-owned businesses with the release of “The Modern Green Book”
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos provided by Kapri Beck and Kennedy Street of Koi Graphics
“I wanted to create a way that connected us to our history while also giving people a way to intentionally support Black-owned businesses and organizations,” explained Theo Edwards-Butler, Founder and CEO of “The Modern Green Book.” A Louisville native, Edwards-Butler recently graduated from Samford University with a degree in musical theater, but the COVID-19 pandemic let her other passion, social entrepreneurship, come to light and thrive. Before graduation, Edwards-Butler was the president of Samford University’s Black Student Union. Before the pandemic hit, she put together a successful Black business exposition on campus and was planning to do more with those companies before the university closed due to COVID-19. Thus the idea of “The Modern Green Book” was born.
“The original green book, ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book,’ was a travel guide for Black business owners. After doing research, I discovered that ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ was an essential tool for Black travelers during that time. People were using it to go out and find Black-owned businesses and ally businesses to support,” explained Edwards-Butler. “I felt that it made sense to bring it back. There was this piece of history that not a lot of people knew about but it was built to highlight and support Black-owned businesses. That’s what the original creator wanted to happen with it and unfortunately the legacy kind of passed on with him, but I wanted a way to continue that.”
Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations can submit their business or organization on moderngreenbook.net/index.php/submit-your-business-2. The only qualification is that the business is 50% Black-owned or founded. “This is something I offer as a free service to them. If you list with us on the online database, you’re guaranteed a spot in our big “Complete Modern Green Book” that will be coming out in June. We will accept businesses at any stage, so they can be well-established or they could be brand new and need help getting more people to know about it,” said Edwards-Butler. “The Modern Green Book” will feature businesses throughout the country as well as internationally, according to the website.
“The Modern Green Book” will have three different formats. The website, moderngreenbook.net, will be the digital database for all Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations that apply to be featured; it will also be the location where readers can purchase the book’s quarterly and annual issues. Edwards-Butler will release an issue of “The Modern Green Book” every quarter. According to Edwards-Butler, the quarterly issue will highlight and celebrate the Black experience, Black culture and the stories behind each business. Every quarterly issue will have a theme and will highlight 15 companies interviewed by Edwards-Butler that fit the theme. The first issue’s theme is Breaking Ground and will be released at the end of February. You can pre-order the first quarterly issue on the website at moderngreenbook.net/index.php/publications-page.
The annual publication will mirror “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” “Any business that is listed in our online database will have the opportunity to be featured in the book. Every business will have a listing in ‘The Complete Modern Green Book’ that is coming out in June. This is really the closest thing to what the original one was and it will be something for people to keep on their coffee tables or in their glove box for when they’re traveling. It’s a way to easily and tangibly be able to intentionally support Black-owned businesses,” explained Edwards-Butler. Both the quarterly issue and “The Complete Modern Green Book” will be available to purchase as a digital copy as well.
“I really want “The Modern Green Book” to be for everyone. I want everyone to be able to use this as a resource, not just Black people, in search of supporting Black businesses. I think that often the Black business community is not as supported and we’re not afforded the same privileges and resources that many other business communities are. I think this is a way that everyone can help and support Black-owned businesses without necessarily having to bend over backward or go out of your way. It’s an easy place to go to search and go and support. I want everyone to know this is for everybody, not just one particular group,” Edwards-Butler explained. Learn more about Edwards-Butler and “The Modern Green Book” on their website, moderngreenbook.net, and pre-order the first quarterly issue today!