Swifter than a Weaver’s Shuttle: The Days of Canada Lee

  • Glenda E. Gill


Four thousand mourners crowded into Harlem’s Salem Methodist Church on 13 May 1952. Six thousand more lined the streets of Seventh Avenue. Canada Lee was dead, dead before his time. Gone at 45, this pioneer actor had given his life as an activist. The working-class man and woman at the funeral sat next to such theatre luminaries as Oscar Hammerstein, II, Noble Sissle, Brooks Atkinson, Dick Campbell, Perry Watkins, Frank Silvera, Sidney Poitier, Frederick O’Neal, and Arnold Moss. Lee’s first wife, Juanita Canegata, and Frances Lee, his widow, were in attendance, as well.


Personal Interview American Theatre Black Actor Race Riot Negro Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Abramson, Doris E. Negro Playwrights in the American Theatre, 1925–1959. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Thomas. Personal interview with author. 25 Nov. 1977.Google Scholar
  3. Atkinson, Brooks. “From Broadway to Harlem,” The New York Times Theatre Review 7 May 1935, n.p. [review of Sailor Beware]Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, Brooks. “‘Macbeth’ or Harlem Boy Goes Wrong, Under Auspices of Federal Theatre Project,” The New York Times, 15 Apr. 1936, 25: 4. [review of Macbeth]Google Scholar
  5. Atkinson, Brooks. The New York Times Theatre Review 30 Oct. 1937, 23:2. [review of S. S. Glencairn]Google Scholar
  6. Atkinson, Brooks. The New York Times Theatre Review. 16 Oct. 1946, 35:2. [review of Duchess of Malfi]Google Scholar
  7. Belcher, Fannin S. “The Place of the Negro in the Evolution of the American Theatre, 1767 to 1940,” Ph.D. diss., Yale, 1945, 230.Google Scholar
  8. Bilbo, Theodore. Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization. Poplarville, Mississippi: Dream House Publishing Company, 1947.Google Scholar
  9. Bloom, Samuel William. “A Social Psychological Study of Motion Picture Audience Behavior: A Case Study of the Negro Image in Mass Communication”, Ph.D. diss. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1956.Google Scholar
  10. Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. New York: Continuum, 1996.Google Scholar
  11. Bourne, St. Clair. “Lafayette Players Do O’Neill Show Well,” The New York Amsterdam News 6 Nov. 1937, 16. [review of S. S. Glencairn]Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, Dick. Letter to author. 5 Jan. 1978.Google Scholar
  13. “Canada Lee, 45, Actor, Boxer, Jockey, Dies,” The New York World Telegram Sun, 10 May 1952, 22.Google Scholar
  14. “Canada Lee, Actor on Stage, Screen,” The New York Times 10 May 1952, n.p.Google Scholar
  15. “Canada Lee Back in Ring: Ex-Pug Makes Comeback in Boxing and in Films,” Ebony Aug. 1947, 16–17. [Body and Soul]Google Scholar
  16. “Canada Lee, 45, Is Dead; Stage and Film Star,” New York Herald Tribune 10 May 1952, n.p.Google Scholar
  17. “Congress Alarmed Over ‘Stevedore’ Lynch Drama,” Afro-American n.p., n.d.Google Scholar
  18. “Crowds Jam Streets as ‘Macbeth’ Opens,” The New York Times 15 Apr. 1936, 25:3.Google Scholar
  19. Crowther, Bosley. New York Times Film Review. 10 Nov. 1947, 21:2. [review of Body and Soul]Google Scholar
  20. “Cry, the Beloved Country,” Ebony July 1951, 57–62.Google Scholar
  21. Current Biography Yearbook 1944 New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1944. 394–396.Google Scholar
  22. “Final Tribute Paid to a Great Actor, Canada Lee,” The Afro-American 24 May 1952, n.p.Google Scholar
  23. Fraden, Rena. Blueprints for a Black Federal Theatre, 1935–1939. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  24. Freidin, Seymour. “Boxer, Jockey, Band Leader, Canada Lee Becomes Star Actor,” The New York Herald Tribune, 30 Mar. 1941, 5.Google Scholar
  25. Funeral Program of Canada Lee, 13 May 1952.Google Scholar
  26. Gilder, Rosamond. Theatre Arts Monthly May 1941, 331–332. [Native Son]Google Scholar
  27. Gilder, Rosamond. Theatre Arts Monthly Nov. 1944, 632–633. [Anna Lucasta]Google Scholar
  28. Gill, Glenda E. “Canada Lee: Black Actor in Non-Traditional Roles,” Journal of Popular Culture winter issue, 1991, 79–89.Google Scholar
  29. Gill, Glenda E. “Careerist and Casualty: The Rise and Fall of Canada Lee,” Freedomways, vol. 21, no. 1, 1981, 14–27.Google Scholar
  30. Gill, Glenda E. White Grease Paint on Black Performers: A Study of the Federal Theatre, 1935–1939. NewYork: Peter Lang, 1988.Google Scholar
  31. Hammond, Percy. “Meek Mose A Solicitous Study of Negro Life as It is Seen by an Afro-American Actor,” in The Theaters Section, New York Herald Tribune n.d., 16.Google Scholar
  32. Hammond, Percy. “A W.P.A. Macbeth,” New York Herald Tribune, 16 Apr. 1939, 16.Google Scholar
  33. “Hitchcock Throws Eight People and the Nazi Who Torpedoed Them Together in an Open Boat,” Life, 31 Jan. 1944, 77–81. [Lifeboat]Google Scholar
  34. Hughes, Langston. “Federal Theatre Led the Way to Plenty of Integration on Broadway,” The New York Age, 2 May 1953, 10.Google Scholar
  35. Hughes, Langston. Hand signed, typed review for The Chicago Defender 22 June 1946. [On Whitman Avenue]. (courtesy of Maxine Wood)Google Scholar
  36. Isaacs, Hermine Rich, “This Insubstantial Pageant,” Theatre Arts Monthly Feb. 1945, 89–93. [The Tempest]Google Scholar
  37. Johnson, Max. The Baltimore Afro-American. 17 Feb. 1942, n.p. [review of Native Son]Google Scholar
  38. Josephson, Barney. Telephone interview with author. 25 Nov. 1977.Google Scholar
  39. Kanfer, Stefan. A Journal of the Plague Years. New York: Atheneum, 1973.Google Scholar
  40. Lardner, John. “A Play about a Negro Revolt,” New York Star 5 Nov. 1948, 17. [Set My People Free]Google Scholar
  41. Lee, Canada. Letter to Paul Green. 8 Dec. 1942. (courtesy of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)Google Scholar
  42. Lee, Canada. “Our Part in Body and Soul,” Opportunity, winter issue, 1948, 20–21.Google Scholar
  43. Lee, Carl. Personal interview with author. 30 Mar. 1982.Google Scholar
  44. Lee, Frances. Personal interview with author. 26 June 1980.Google Scholar
  45. “Lynching on Broadway,” People’s Voice 18 May 1946, n.p. (courtesy of Maxine Wood)Google Scholar
  46. “Making of Lost Boundaries The,”
  47. Matthews, Ralph. Baltimore: Afro-American n.p., n.d. [review of On Whitman Avenue]Google Scholar
  48. “Mead Takes Hand at Filibustering,” The New York Times 1 Feb. 1946, 19:1.Google Scholar
  49. Mitchell, Loften. Personal interview with author. 28 June 1980.Google Scholar
  50. Moss, Arnold. Letter to author. 30 July 1980.Google Scholar
  51. Moss, Arnold. Postcard to author. 29 Nov. 1980.Google Scholar
  52. Moss, Arnold. Telephone interview with author. 11 Jan. 1981.Google Scholar
  53. Natal Daily News, The. 3 Aug. 1950, 1.Google Scholar
  54. Norford, George. “On Stage…,” Opportunity, summer issue, 1947, vols. 24–26, 164–166.Google Scholar
  55. “New Plays in Manhattan,” Time 10 Jan. 1944. [South Pacific]Google Scholar
  56. Nichols, Lewis, “The Play,” The New York Times Theatre Review 30 Dec. 1943, 11: 2. [South Pacific]Google Scholar
  57. O’Connor, John and Lorraine Brown. Free, Adult, Uncensored: The Living History of the Federal Theatre Project. Washington, D.C.: New Republic Books, 1978.Google Scholar
  58. O’Morrison, Kevin. Letter to author. 25 Feb. 1980.Google Scholar
  59. On Whitman Avenue. Clippings of articles and reviews. Tuskegee University Archives.Google Scholar
  60. Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.Google Scholar
  61. Paton, Alan. Letters to author$18 Sept. 1981, and 19 Jan. 1982.Google Scholar
  62. “Peace: Everybody Wars Over It,” Newsweek, 4 Apr. 1949, 21.Google Scholar
  63. Peters, Paul and George Sklar. Stevedore. New York: Covici, Friede Publishers, 1934.Google Scholar
  64. Poitier, Sidney. Letter to author. 3 Feb. 1981.Google Scholar
  65. Porter, Russell, “5 Women Placed on Tentative Jury in Communist Trial,” The New York Times, 10 Mar. 1949, 1–2.Google Scholar
  66. Poston, Ted. “Plight of His Kin in U.S. Job Recalls How ‘Whispers’ Broke Canada Lee,” [Canada Lee Went Hungry on the Doorstep of Fame.] (clipping file of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin), n.d., n.p.Google Scholar
  67. Rascoe, Burton. The New York World-Telegram 31 Aug. 1944, n.p. [review of Anna Lucasta]Google Scholar
  68. Richards, Lloyd. Personal interview with author. 28 June 1985.Google Scholar
  69. Roosevelt, Eleanor. “Racial Problems,” The New York World-Telegram n.d., n.p. (courtesy of Maxine Wood) [On Whitman Avenue]Google Scholar
  70. Rudd, Irving. “Program for Pugilism,” Negro Digest, The Apr. 1946, 47–50.Google Scholar
  71. Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Hopkinson and Blake, 1976, 147.Google Scholar
  72. Stafford, Bart Lanier, III. Letters to author$118 Sept. 1977, and 6 Apr. 1982.Google Scholar
  73. “Stevedore,” The New York Times Theatre Review 2 Oct. 1934, 18:2.Google Scholar
  74. “Superior Documentary,” Newsweek 4 July 1949, 72. [Lost Boundaries]Google Scholar
  75. Taylor, Sylvia, “Canada Lee Has Many Trades—Master of Them All,” (clipping found in the Moorland-Spingarn Collection of the Howard University Library), n.d., n.p.Google Scholar
  76. “Tempest on a Turntable,” Newsweek 5 Feb. 1945, 82–83.Google Scholar
  77. Time 7 Apr. 1941. [Native Son]Google Scholar
  78. United States Congress House Committee Hearings, 80th Congress, Senate Library, vol. 1138, 1947. (University of Iowa Government Documents)Google Scholar
  79. Ward, Theodore. Lecture at the University of Iowa, 15 June 1977.Google Scholar
  80. Warner, Ralph. “A Vital Drama of Negro Life,” (clipping file of The Moorland-Spingarn), n.d., n.p. [Big White Fog]Google Scholar
  81. Washington, Fredi. Newspaper clipping on On Whitman Avenue n.d., n.p. (courtesy of Maxine Wood)Google Scholar
  82. Webster, Margaret. Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1972, 119–194. [on The Tempest]Google Scholar
  83. “When the Slaves Rose,” Newsweek 15 Nov. 1948, 82. [Set My People Free]Google Scholar
  84. Wood, Maxine. Letter to author. 20 Aug. 1979.Google Scholar
  85. Wood, Maxine. On Whitman Avenue. New York: Dramatists Play Service 1944. (courtesy of Maxine Wood)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Glenda E. Gill 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda E. Gill

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations