She was born on a farm in North Carolina but made an everlasting impression in Maryland. Verda Freeman Welcome is counted among the foremost political, civil rights, and community activists of her time. After moving to Baltimore at age 23, Welcome graduated from Coppin State Teachers College and Morgan State College, and later received a master’s degree in history at New York University. She earned honorary degrees from Howard University and the University of Maryland.
Welcome, a proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, taught for nearly a dozen years in the Baltimore public school system before setting her sights on the political arena where she ultimately made history.
Married to Dr. Henry C. Welcome, Freeman Welcome won election to the Maryland House of Delegates representing Baltimore City’s fourth district. Welcome became the first African American woman to win election to the state house. She served as a Delegate until 1962 when she won election as the state’s first Black woman senator. Welcome served in the Senate until 1982.
“She was very impactful with the legislation that she helped pass in regards to marriage equity, even smoking bans and other kinds of things we now kind of take for granted,” Ida E. Jones, an author and archivist at Morgan State University, remarked in a televised 2019 interview. It was Welcome’s 1975 legislation that transformed Morgan State College into Morgan State University. “Verda Welcome is largely ignored by history, Edwin T. Johnson, assistant university archivist at Morgan State University, said in the same interview with Jones.
Johnson offered that he was hopeful that Welcome’s notoriety would change. Her legislative accomplishments were historic. She spearheaded bills to attack discrimination in public housing and other public accommodations, and she sponsored legislation that helped to fund the construction of Provident Hospital.
Legislation put forth by Welcome also addressed equal pay, harassment of welfare recipients, illegal employment practices. Her legislation also led to the creation of the Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and Culture.
One of fifteen children of John and Docia Freeman, Verda Freeman Welcome died in 1990. “She brought the entire community of those on the margins to the center of the conversation with dignity and grace,” Jones told WBAL-TV. “The Welcome Bridge” at Morgan State University was constructed in Welcome’s honor, and officials said it provides a safe path over a busy road at the campus.
“She bridged the gap between the races; she bridged the gap in terms of inequities between men and women in so many facets and aspects of our world.”