Verda Freeman Welcome, 1907-1990

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Woman Category: Academy & Education, Activism & Feminism, and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: African-American Women, Educator, and Senator

  • HerStory

    Educator, civil rights leader, politician. The first African-American to serve in Maryland State Senate and the second black woman to be elected to a state senate in the US.

    Verda Mae Freeman Welcome was born in Uree (today called Lake Lure), North Carolina. In her teens, after her mother died, Welcome had to finance her education, working in menial jobs during the day and attending school in the evening. At 22, she moved to Baltimore, Maryland, studying at Coppin State Teachers College. After graduation, she began her decade-long teaching career and met and married Dr. Henry C. Welcome. Welcome continued her education, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Morgan State College and a master’s degree in history from New York University.
     
    As an educator at Baltimore’s public school system during the 1930s, Welcome felt the discrimination and racism toward her and witnessed her students’ lack of opportunities. She became an activist in her community, joining various organizations, including the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), the National Urban League, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In 1945, at the age of 39, Welcome was elected president of the Northwest Improvement Association, improving local services for the people, as a higher frequency of garbage collection and police protection.
     
    In 1958, Welcome ran as an independent democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, representing the Fourth District of Baltimore City. When she won the election, 51 years old Welcome became the first African-American woman to serve in this position. In her three years tenure, she worked to improve civil rights services for the state’s citizens. She promoted the ratification of the fourteenth amendment, advocated for gun and smoking laws, permissive interracial marriage law, and improved the access of blind citizens to public housing.
     
    In 1962, at the age of 55, Welcome was elected to the Maryland State Senate – the first African-American to serve as a Senator in Maryland State Senate and the second African-American woman in the US to be elected to a state senate. In this position, Welcome continued her work toward equal rights, promoting issues such as eliminating Maryland’s racial segregation laws, equal pay for equal work, illegal employment practices, harassment of welfare recipients, and discrimination in public accommodations. In 1969, Welcome called for establishing the Maryland Commission on Negro History and Culture (today called Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture) to collect and preserve the history of the state’s black population. Welcome served in MD Senate for 20 years until she retired in 1982. She died eight years later, at the age of 83.
     

    “I had been on the front lines of the civil rights movement for a number of years, but I was one voice out of many…”

    “I had been on the front lines of the civil rights movement for a number of years, but I was one voice out of many…”

     


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was the third of sixteen children.
    • She had one daughter.
    • In 1964, she survived an assassination attempt.
    • She willed her personal papers and correspondence to Morgan State University.
    • She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention three times – in 1968, 1972, and 1976.
    • A portrait of her is displayed in the James Building at Maryland Senate Office Complex.
    • The crosswalk bridge over Cold Spring Lane of Morgan State University is named in her honor.
    • The annual political legislative achievement award of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is named in her honor.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Awards:

    * 1962's Woman of the Year award by the Women's Auxiliary to the National Medical Association
    * Inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame (1988)
    * Awarded honorary degrees from Morgan State University, the University of Maryland, and Howard University

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Verda Freeman Welcome shorten trailblazer


  • Photo credit - Wikipedia

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Maryland Women's Hall of Fame website.
    Wikipedia page.


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