[Marxism] Canada Lee remembered

acpollack2 at juno.com acpollack2 at juno.com
Mon Mar 28 18:26:19 MST 2005

>From Michael Pollak's always fascinating City section column yesterday

A Victim of Hysteria

Q. In reading about the political blacklist of the 1940's and 50's, I have come across the name of the New York actor Canada Lee. But I can't find out much about him. Can you help?

A. Canada Lee was a tragic victim of racism and anti-Communist hysteria. A biography, "Becoming Something," by Mona Z. Smith (Faber & Faber, 2004), helps to revive his memory.

Born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata to an immigrant from St. Croix, he grew up in Harlem. A prodigy on violin and piano, he was a jockey at age 13. He became a pro boxer, changing his name, and was a welterweight contender until he damaged an eye. Canada Lee took up acting with the Depression-era Federal Theater Project. He was the star of Orson Welles's Broadway production of "Native Son" and appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film "Lifeboat," as well as "Cry, the Beloved Country" with a young Sidney Poitier.

During and after the war, Lee spoke at countless rallies before the kind of liberal groups that the F.B.I. and House Un-American Activities Committee were labeling Communist fronts. Lee, who condemned Jim Crow laws and bigotry against black soldiers, was mentioned publicly in the late 40's as a Communist sympathizer, and blacklisted from entertainment jobs. His old friend Ed Sullivan turned on him. Lee died of kidney failure in May 1952 at age 45. 

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