Canada Lee

Born Mar 3, 1907

Canada Lee was an American actor who pioneered roles for African Americans. A champion of civil rights in the 1930s and 1940s, he died shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became an actor after careers as a jockey, boxer, and musician. Lee furthered the African-American tradition in theater pioneered by such actors as Paul Robeson. Lee is the father of actor Carl Lee.… Read More

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1907 Birth Lee was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata on March 3, 1907 in New York City. … Read More


1925 18 Years Old In December 1925, he married Juanita Waller, by whom he had a son, the actor Carl Vincent Lee. … Read More
1926 19 Years Old Lee began boxing in 1926. … Read More


1928 21 Years Old He boxed a ten-round draw with middleweight champion Vince Dundee in 1928.
1930 23 Years Old During a 1930 bout with Willie Garafola, a glancing blow to his right eye detached his retina.
1933 26 Years Old His sight was impaired, and he finally quit boxing in 1933. … Read More
Lee's acting career began by accident. While at a YMCA to apply for a job as a laborer, Lee stumbled upon an audition in progress and was invited to try out. He earned a supporting role in Frank Wilson’s 1934 production of Brother Moses, which played to a crowd of ten thousand in Central Park. … Read More


1941 - 1942 2 More Events
1943 36 Years Old In 1943, he took a lead role in a production of the race-themed drama South Pacific, directed by Lee Strasberg, concerning a cynical African-American soldier who had racially based reservations about fighting the Japanese.
1945 38 Years Old The following year, he became the first African-American to play Caliban, in Margaret Webster’s 1945 Broadway rendition of The Tempest. … Read More
1946 39 Years Old After the war, Lee continued to act. In 1946, he played a principal role in On Whitman Avenue, a drama about racial prejudice directed by Margo Jones. … Read More


1947 40 Years Old In 1947, he played a supporting role in Robert Rossen's Body and Soul, another boxing picture.
1949 42 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1949, he took another supporting role in Lost Boundaries, a drama about passing. … Read More
1950 43 Years Old At the height of the Hollywood blacklist, Lee managed to find work in 1950 as the star of a British film Cry, The Beloved Country, for which both he and Sidney Poitier were smuggled into South Africa as indentured servants in order to play their roles as African ministers. … Read More
1951 44 Years Old In March 1951, Lee married Frances Pollack. … Read More
1952 45 Years Old He died of a heart attack on May 9, 1952, in New York City.
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