William “Little Willie” and Victorine Q. Adams Residence

On October 13, 1935, William “Little Willie” Adams and Victorine Quille were married at Saint Peter Claver Catholic Church. The young businessman and the school teacher each came from different backgrounds. William Adams, originally of Zebulon, North Carolina, arrived in Baltimore at age fifteen. Over the next six years, Adams worked his way up from running numbers and cutting sail cloth into rags at a shop on Caroline Street to owning three businesses (a bicycle shop, candy store, and barbershop). Victorine Adams grew up in a working-class family in Baltimore. She graduated from what is now Frederick Douglass High School and enrolled in the teacher training course at Coppin Normal School (now Coppin State University).

Shortly after completing the two-year training course and beginning work as a teacher, Victorine met William Adams. The pair married in 1935 and, soon thereafter, William and Victorine emerged as an influential couple in the political, social, and economic spheres of Black Baltimore. They owned several businesses along Pennsylvania Avenue (including Club Casino and the Charm Centre) and made loans to Black business owners throughout the city in the 1940s and 1950s. But they also started to use their money and connections to push for political change.

In 1946, Victorine founded the Colored Women’s Democratic Campaign Committee of Maryland (CWDCC) to interest Black women in politics and increase their participation in the social, civic, and economic development of the city. The CWDCC’s home base was the basement of the Adams family home on Carlisle Avenue in the neighborhood of Hanlon Park. When they moved to Hanlon Park in July 1949, the couple were the first Black residents in the community—most of their neighbors were white and Jewish. The basement served as the headquarters for many voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns, as Victorine trained volunteers how to vote using an instructional model table-top voting machine from the Automatic Voting Machine Corporation of Jamestown, New York.

The couple helped many successful Black politicians win office in their campaign to diversify Maryland politics: Harry A. Cole to the Maryland State Senate in 1955; Verda Welcome to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1962; and Parren Mitchell to the United States Congress in 1970. Their home also served as the base for subsequent successful political campaigns by Victorine. She won her own seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966 and became the first Black woman to serve on the Baltimore City Council after a successful race in 1967.

The Adamses continued to be involved in Baltimore politics and philanthropy throughout their lives, whether they were fundraising for the now-defunct Provident Hospital or supporting the William L. and Victorine Q. Adams Foundation, which awarded scholarships to Black residents of Baltimore City for undergraduate studies in business-related fields. Their Hanlon Park home sold shortly after Victorine died in 2006. William moved to an apartment at Roland Park Place where he died in 2011.

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3103 Carlisle Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216