Canada Lee bigraphy, stories - American politician

Canada Lee : biography

03 March 1907 - 09 May 1952
Canada Lee

Family life

In December 1925, he married Juanita Waller, by whom he had a son, the actor Carl Vincent Lee. They were divorced during the controversy over Native Son.

In 1934, he began a love affair with publisher and peace activist Caresse Crosby, despite the threat of miscegenation laws. They often had lunch in uptown New York in Harlem at the then-new restaurant Franks, where they could maintain their secret relationship. When Lee was performing in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s, the only restaurant in the city where they could eat together was an African restaurant named the Bugazi. Crosby and Lee's intimate relationship continued into the mid-1940s.

In March 1951, Lee married Frances Pollack. They remained together until he died just over a year later.

Additional reading

  • Hill, Erroll. Shakespeare in Sable: A History of Black Shakespearean Actors. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.
  • Leiter, Samuel. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the New York Stage, 1940–1950. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.
  • Smith, Mona Z., Becoming Something: The Story of Canada Lee, London: Faber and Faber 2004. ISBN 0-571-21142-9
  • Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2 Volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Woll, Allen. Dictionary of the Black Theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Selected Harlem Theatre. New York: Greenwood Press, 1983.

Early life

Lee was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata on March 3, 1907 in New York City. He was raised by his West Indian parents in New York City. He was a talented musician, and by age 12 was a concert violinist. In his early teens, he ran away from home to become a jockey and after growing too large to ride, he decided to try boxing.

Boxing career

Lee began boxing in 1926. Before one match, an announcer, stumbling over Lionel’s surname, mispronounced his name as "Canada Lee". Lee adopted the mistake as his own. At and about , he fought as a welterweight. His professional boxing record is listed variously as 38 wins with 15 knockouts, 32 losses with 8 knockouts, and 8 draws; 44 wins with 11 knockouts, 31 losses, and three draws; or 33–31–7 with 13 knockouts. He fought and lost to world champions Jack Britton, Tommy Freeman, and Lou Brouillard. He boxed a ten-round draw with middleweight champion Vince Dundee in 1928.

During a 1930 bout with Willie Garafola, a glancing blow to his right eye detached his retina. His sight was impaired, and he finally quit boxing in 1933. Lee began to conduct a fifteen-piece orchestra at a nightclub in Harlem, The Jitterbug, which he also managed. Neither the band nor the nightclub could survive the Great Depression. Despite having made an estimated US$90,000 during his boxing career (roughly equivalent to $ today), by the mid-1930s Lee was impoverished.

Civil rights activism

As an actor, Lee came into contact with many of the leading progressive figures in the country. Langston Hughes, for instance, wrote two brief plays for Lee; these were submitted to the Theater Project, but their criticism of racism in America was deemed too controversial, and neither was staged. Lee spoke to schools, sponsored various humanitarian events, and began speaking directly against the existing segregation in America’s armed forces, while simultaneously acknowledging the need to win World War II. To this latter end, he appeared at numerous USO events; he won an award from the United States Recruiting Office and another from the Treasury Department for his help in selling war bonds. These sentiments would carry on throughout his life, culminating in his early firsthand account of apartheid in South Africa.

By the late 1940s, the rising tide of anti-communism had made many of his earlier contacts politically dangerous. In 1949, the trade journal Variety stated that under no circumstance was he to be used in American Tobacco’s televised production of a radio play he had recently starred in because he was “too controversial.”

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine