The Book by Frances Lee

A note from the Canada Lee Heritage Foundation chair…

My mother, Frances (Lee) Pearson, passed away several years ago without completing her book. To say the last years of her life, that she spent trying to put all that was in her head into the written word were frustrating is an absolute understatement. There were several false starts with collaborative writers that set the project back by years, another author dealt a devastating blow when significant historical content was misappropriated and Frances was well beyond legally blind, elderly, and not in the best of health. On top of this, as much as we discussed it, her particular perfectionism led her to try and completely craft every sentence and paragraph as she wrote rather than simply writing with the plan to clean things up later. The result was several very finished chapters of an incomplete narrative.

The foundation has a mission; to help bring people together by leveraging emotion, empathy, compassion and all the elements of life that can be impacted by art and drama. To use money generated by the book as the nucleus for regular scholarships and grants for young people, especially those of color, that are our future and to support other organizations that have the same moral compass.

To that end, there is a small documentary team that is trying to complete a film about Canada Lee and I would still very much like to see all the materials collected by Frances fully developed into something that will propel this mission to success. There are many documents, interviews, photos, and artifacts waiting for someone to wrangle them into a completed project. This is a significant endeavor that I cannot undertake but it is the perfect adventure for someone. If you have an affinity for history, the arts, social justice and the grit, the foundation is here to discuss things and assist where we can. Get in touch.

Daine Pearson, Chairman

From Frances to the reader:

{Written in 2005}
Photo of Frances Lee

My late husband, Canada Lee, died on May 9, 1952. Because my memories of him are so very alive, both Canada and I will be telling you the story of his life and my years with him.
Throughout this narrative, you will be reading his words as well as my own regarding events as he described them to me. Frequently, we will use the vernacular of that era, some 50 to 60 years ago, words that are no longer widely used.
Let me also explain why so much time passed without my writing a book. First and foremost, it took a wonderful man, Howard Dodson, the Chief of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to point his finger at me during a luncheon which took place in 1999 and say, “Your memories of him are so vivid, you do not have the right NOT to write a book about Canada!”.

Jet Magazine, 1952.

Over the years since his death, there have been several magazine editors, as well as literary agents, who have asked me to write a biography of Canada. However, in each case, I felt they were only interested in using our interracial marriage to make money. I am grateful to have been raised by tolerant, idealistic parents who taught me to choose friends on the basis of their character and intelligence, and not because of their race or religion. My relationship with Canada was a bond of deep love, and I refuse to allow anyone to sully it.

Canada Lee Colored Welterweight Champion, National NY.

My desire is to share with you my recollections of the unusual boy who grew up to be an extraordinary man who always fought against injustices. His life was picturesque, yet full of frustrations and great sorrows. Admirably, Canada never lost his will to overcome adversity.

I am most grateful that the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture exists. It is there that the Canada Lee Collection resides, along with those of many other great Americans. The Canada Lee Scholarship Fund is also being held at The Schomburg Center, where it is protected until it can begin to help other young talent. All revenues generated from this book and any resulting projects will go directly into the Canada Lee Scholarship Fund.

Following my husband’s death, Oscar Hammerstein II, in his eulogy, “Farewell to a Friend” stated, “…He gave all of himself to us. Let us never forget to be grateful for the gift…”

Canada Lee as George Washington Carver in a production by United Artists (~1947).

Canada opened my eyes to the great beauty of life. I lived with him through the hardship of the Blacklist and the fear that permeated the entire entertainment industry. He refused to bow down or buckle under. His unbelievable strength never flagged.

There are other versions of my late husband’s life, some of which sadly contain innumerable errors, misstatements and misinterpretations. This is the true story.

Sincerely, Frances Lee Pearson

Contact Us

The Canada Lee Heritage Foundation is a U.S. 501c3 non-profit public charity.
Our EIN number is 20-2864977.