Lee, Canada

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata whose stage name was Canada Lee, achieved success in diverse careers, but was best known as an actor of the stage and screen. Born in New York City in 1907, Lee began studying violin at age seven, and made his first concert appearance five years later. His varied career included stints as a jockey and prizefighter. In the 1920's he won the national amateur lightweight title, later becoming a leading contender for the welterweight championship. An eye injury ended his ring career in 1933, and he returned to music in the capacity of a bandleader.

In 1936 Lee first won critical acclaim in the W.P.A. Negro Federal Theater Unit's "Macbeth" followed by roles in "Haiti," "Mamba's Daughters," and "On Whitman Avenue" on Broadway. His 1941 performance in Richard Wright's "Native Son" brought him great success. Other theatrical productions featuring Lee include "Set My People Free," "The Dutchess of Malfi," "Othello" and "Anna Lucasta." His film credits include "Cry, the Beloved Country," Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" and "Lost Boundaries." In addition to his many theatrical and film performances, Lee narrated a radio series, "New World A-Comin'."

During the 1940s and early 1950s, after achieving prominence as an actor, Lee used his name and popularity to garner support for the many causes and issues he believed in, particularly the struggle for equal rights for black people and against fascism and oppression worldwide.

As a result of his participation in and support of organizations theState Department had declared subversive, the State Department labelled Lee a communist. In 1949 he was blacklisted, which seriously handicapped his ability to work in the entertainment industry. However, in 1950 he was offered a role in the British production of "Cry, the Beloved Country," which would be his last. Lee died in 1952 shortly after the film was completed.

From the description of Canada Lee papers, 1912-1999 (bulk 1941-1952). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122346109

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lee, Canada. Letter to Maxine Wood. Buffalo, NY. 1946 Apr. 10. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Culp, Stephanie,. Canada Lee research material collection, 1951, 1973. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Lee, Canada. Canada Lee papers, 1912-1999 (bulk 1941-1952). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
referencedIn Pierce, Theodore, 1907-1999. Papers, 1867-1998. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967. Miscellaneous manuscripts, 1942(?). University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Radio Scripts collection, 1937-1966. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Freedom of Information Act files, 1921-1959. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Canada Lee Foundation. Canada Lee Foundation records, 1952-1955. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alexander, Frank, playwright. person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
associatedWith Canada Lee Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Coward, Noel, 1899-1973. person
associatedWith Culp, Stephanie, person
associatedWith Finsterwald, Maxine, 1906-, person
associatedWith Gough, Lloyd. person
associatedWith Hammerstein, Oscar, 1895-1960. person
associatedWith Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967. person
associatedWith Paton, Alan. person
associatedWith Pierce, Theodore, 1907-1999. person
associatedWith United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
African American motion pictures actors and actresses
African Americans in the performing arts
Radio plays
Radio broadcasters
African Americans in radio broadcasting
African American theater
African American actors
African American boxers


Birth 1907-03-03

Death 1952-05-09


Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6ms5939

Ark ID: w6ms5939

SNAC ID: 19338724