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 Canada Lee was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata on March 3, 1907, in the San Juan Hill neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. … Read More


1921 14 Years Old In 1921, aged 14, Lee went to Saratoga Springs, New York, and began a two-year career as a jockey.
1923 16 Years Old Lee returned to his parents' home in Harlem in 1923 with no idea what he was going to do next. … Read More
1925 18 Years Old In December 1925, Lee married Juanita Eugenia Waller. On November 22, 1926, they had a son, Carl Vincent Canegata, who became actor Carl Lee. The couple separated while their son was young, and they were amicably divorced in 1942.
1926 19 Years Old Lee turned pro at age 19, in October 1926, and became a favorite with audiences. … Read More


1927 20 Years Old Boxing historian Donald R. Koss documents Lee having 60 bouts 1927–31, the majority of them taking place 1927–28. … Read More
1929 22 Years Old During his victorious 10-round bout with Andy Divodi at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 1929, Lee was dealt a blow over his right ear that detached his retina. … Read More
1933 26 Years Old 1 More Event
He quit professional boxing in 1933. … Read More
His acting career began by accident in 1934. … Read More


1939 32 Years Old In January 1939, with the end of the Federal Theatre Project, Lee won a role in Mamba's Daughters, a Broadway success that toured North America and returned to Broadway for another brief run in 1940. … Read More
1940 33 Years Old Lee played the lead role in the 1940 revival of Theodore Ward's Big White Fog. … Read More
1942 35 Years Old During World War II, Lee continued to act in plays and in films. In 1942, he played in two comedies by William Saroyan; Lee earned approving reviews despite the generally negative response to these plays.
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. … Read More
1944 37 Years Old Lee's successful radio career continued with New World A-Comin, which made its debut in March 1944. … Read More
1945 38 Years Old 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 1 More Event
In 1946, Lee played a principal role in On Whitman Avenue, a drama about racial prejudice directed by Margo Jones. … Read More


1947 - 1948 2 More Events
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 Lee died of a heart attack at the age of 45 on May 9, 1952, in New York City.
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