She took her first breath in 1907, one of 15 children, on a farm in North Carolina but before her death in 1990 she would blaze trails and reach unprecedented heights in Maryland.
Verda Freeman Welcome 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 member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., taught for nearly a dozen years in the Baltimore Public Schools before setting her sights on the political arena where she ultimately made history.
Married to Dr. Henry C. Welcome, she won election to the Maryland House of Delegates representing Baltimore City’s fourth district, following Cora Mae Brown (Michigan, 1952) to become the second Black woman elected to a state senate in the U.S. and the first in the Maryland State House.
“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 take for granted,” Ida E. Jones, an author and archivist at Morgan State University, remarked in a televised 2019 interview.
However, 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 said he remains hopeful that Welcome’s legacy will become better known.
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 and illegal employment practices. Her legislation also led to the creation of the Maryland Commission on Afro-American History and Culture.
“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,” Johnson said. “She bridged the gap in terms of inequities between men and women in so many facets and aspects of our world.”