The Walters Art Museum

View All April Events

Choose a Category of Events

View Events by Category

Lunch & Learn: Recovering Lost Ancestry


Thursday, December 1, 2011


12:15 PM–01:15 PM

For this final Lunch & Learn session of the season, hear from genealogists Agnes Kane Callum and her daughter Martina Callum M.D. in conversation with Walters Director of Education Jacqueline Copeland about their work recovering lost ancestry.

For decades, Agnes Kane Callum has written extensively about Maryland’s African American history which was published in a wide range of local and international press. Then tragically, in 1996, more than 25 years of genealogical research was lost in a fire that destroyed her Baltimore home. Callum, a tenacious historian and granddaughter of a Maryland slave began the slow process of reconstructing lost knowledge. Today Callum, aged 86, and daughter Martina Callum will share their stories.

Lunch & Learns let you bring your light lunch to the Walters' Graham Auditorium (or purchase a lunch in the Walters’ café) to enjoy lectures by curators, conservators, scholars and artists covering a range of topics related to the Walters’ exhibitions, collections and areas of interest.

Lunch & Learn talks are free to the public and occur every first Thursday of the month from October until June.

About the Speaker

Agnes Kane Callum was born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the fifth child of the late Philip Moten and Mary Priscilla (Gough) Kane of Saint Mary's County, Md. Educated in the Public Schools of East Baltimore, Callum received her B.A. and M.S., degrees in 1973 and 1975 respectively from Morgan State University. Her graduate studies included being a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow at the University of Ghana at Legon, West Africa.

Today’s discussion will focus on Callum’s work that has revealed important history of the Plantation in Maryland, including her discovery of the identity of John Hanson Briscoe, a descendant of one of the plantation's owners. This former House Delegate and 7th Judicial Circuit Judge (retired in 2002) is an heir of Walter Hanson Stone Briscoe, and for many years has worked in partnership with Callum to preserve Sotterley Plantation.

A longtime researcher, writer and lecturer, Callum has authored and published many books and articles, including many based in Black genealogy: Kane- Butler Genealogy; History of a Black Family; The Kane's Sojourn at Sotterley; Kane Family News Notes; sixteen volumes of Flower of the Forest Black Genealogical Journal; Tomb Stone Inscriptions of Mount Calvary Cemetery. She has also published on the history U.S. Black Troops, including, Colored Volunteers of Maryland, 7th Regiment United States Colored Troops 1863 - 1866, Bounty Records of the 9th Regiment United States Colored Troops 1863 - 1866, and History of the 9th Regiment United States Colored Troops Volunteers of Maryland, Civil War 1863 – 1866.

Callum’s genealogical work has confirmed that her great-grandfather, Henry [Hillary?] Cane and other members of his family were enslaved at the Sotterley Plantation. At its peak, Sotterley’s master owned 53 slaves. By using resources such as original sales receipts documenting the purchase of slaves, the federal census, the Soundex, military, cemetery, and church records, as well as federal and state archives, genealogical and historical societies, and Bibles, Callum has stressed the value of studying the history and geography to better identify forgotten histories.

Today, the Baltimore resident continues to be a passionate historian of Black history and genealogy. She is a widowed mother of five children and four grandchildren who is sharing her passion with future generations.

Photo credit: Historic Sotterley, Inc. Slave Cabin prior to the 2009 restoration.