Agnes Kane Callum, historian, genealogist and researcher, was born in Baltimore, the fifth child of 12 to the late Phillip Moten and Mary Kane (nee Gough) of St. Mary’s County Maryland. She was educated in Baltimore City Public Schools. At age 44 she returned to school and earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Social Sciences degrees from Morgan State University in 1973 and 1975 respectively.
In 1973, she was designated a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar and studied at the University of Ghana at Legon. As an undergraduate she wrote a paper for a Black History class titled “The Acquisition of Land by Free Blacks in St. Mary’s County Maryland.” The research enabled her to begin to investigate and document the genealogy of her family. In 1979, Dr. Callum published her first book, “Kane- Butler Genealogy – History of a Black Family.” She founded edited and published a black genealogical journal for 25 years, “Flower of the Forest”, named after a tract of St. Mary’s County land that the Butler family members owned for nearly 125 years.
Her paternal grandfather, Henry Kane, was born a slave on the Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, Md., in 1860. She joined the Board of Trustees of The Sotterley Plantation in the mid 1990’s. Her research of slave life on the plantation is presently used as the basis for the hands on educational program “Slavery to Freedom” at Sotterley. In 2012 she was designated a Trustee Emeritus.
Much of what is known about the history of Historic St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in East Baltimore is the result of work. St. Francis, the first and oldest Catholic parish officially established, in 1863, for Negroes. Henry Kane, her paternal grandfather joined the parish in 1896. His descendants have been continuous members for 118 years.
A frequent columnist for The Catholic Review, she has written about Colonial Maryland and the role played by people of African descent, including Mathias de Sousa, one of nine indentured servants brought by Jesuit missionaries on the Ark when it arrived in St. Mary’s River in March, 1634.
A tenacious researcher, she produced additional books, including “7th Regiment USCT of Maryland (United States Colored Troops) colored troops who served in the Civil War 1863-1866; “Slave Statistics”; “Black Marriages of St. Mary’s County 1800-1890” and “Black Marriages of Anne Arundel County Maryland.”
In 2006, a complete collection of her work, 19 volumes, was donated to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore.
She is a founding member of the Baltimore Afro American Historical Genealogic Society (formerly BAAHGS). This was renamed the “Agnes Kane Callum” chapter in her honor in 2007. In 2008, she received an honorary doctorate degree in history from St. Mary’s College.
A widow, a mother of five children, two of whom are deceased. Her youngest daughter Martina P. Callum, M.D., Family & Emergency Medicine Physician, Agnes C. Lightfoot of Palm Coast Florida, and Martin J. Callum of Baltimore, Md.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2014.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2014