Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Celebrating the life of Chadwick Boseman, one of the greatest black role models of our time.
After a private four year battle with colon cancer, 43-year-old Chadwick Boseman died surrounded by his family on the 28th August 2020. This news has come as a tragedy for Black Panther fans all over the world, particularly hitting the black community hard with the loss of such an icon.
His revolutionary career saw him break down barriers for Black people on screen and win the hearts of many with his multi-faceted portrayals of notable figures.
Tributes have been given to the much-loved King of Wakanda from all over the world, from young comic book fans to politicians.
Speaking of his encounter with Boseman, Barack Obama tweeted:
"You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain – what a use of his years."
Life before the silver screen
Born to nurse, Carolyn, and factory worker, Leroy, on the 29th November 1976 in Anderson, South Carolina, Chadwick had humble beginnings. He was close to his parents, who heavily supported him during his acting career, often visiting him on set during filming.
“It’s an experience where if you have your mom and dad with you, you want them to experience this thing. It’s something that connects you to who you are. This is a family experience.”
Growing up in a small, southern town in America, Boseman and his two older brothers, Kevin and Derrick, faced racism regularly. Recounting his childhood, he said that rednecks would shout racial slurs at them and even try to run them off the road in confederate flag adorned trucks.
Discovering his calling
At just 17 years old, one of the players on his high school basketball team was shot and killed. In response to this traumatic event, Boseman scripted and staged a play called Crossroads at his school.
This experience led him to discover that acting was his true passion, saying in a Rolling Stone interview:
“I just had a feeling that something was calling me”
Instead of pursuing basketball, the Black Panther star decided to study for a degree in directing at Howard University.
Bringing Black icons to life
In a shift from directing to acting, Chadwick’s on-screen career saw him gracefully play some of the greatest black icons in history.
Boseman’s impeccable stage presence breathed life into the portrayals of basketball star Jackie Robinson, singer James Brown and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
Throughout his career, he advocated for equality and fair representation of black people and black history. After being originally cast to play gang member Reggie Montgomery in soap opera, All My Children, he was fired for raising concerns about racist stereotyping.
Starring in the controversial Gods of Egypt film, which had a mainly white cast, he decided to take the role to ensure than at least one of the Egyptian gods would be of African heritage.
Speaking with GQ after the backlash of the Gods of Egypt’s whitewashing, he said:
“I thought this might come up...and I'm thankful that it did because actually, I agree with it. That's why I wanted to do it, so you would see someone of African descent playing Thoth, the father of mathematics, astronomy, the god of wisdom.”
Six years ago, Chadwick Boseman was cast as superhero T’challa in the life-defining part that we identify him the most with today.
As the unapologetically Black King, Boseman’s lead performance in Black Panther captured the imagination, dreams, and hearts of black children and adults who could finally see themselves represented as the hero of the story.
In a Hollywood first, Black Panther had a Black lead character, predominately Black cast, and a Black director, in the setting of an African-themed nation.
The stereotype-smashing blockbuster was the 12th highest-grossing film in the box office, defeating the idea that films with a Black cast are unprofitable or unfavourable.
Chadwick Boseman’s regal portrayal of T’challa earnt him several awards, including the ‘Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance’, ‘MTV Movie Award for Best Hero’, ‘NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture’, and more.
Amazingly all of this was achieved whilst Chadwick was suffering from cancer. This alone is a testament to his incredible skill and work ethic.
Chadwick Boseman’s legacy
On the announcement of Chadwick Boseman’s death, parents posted stories and images on social media of their children’s heartbreak at losing their favourite superhero.
A father shared a photo of his young son who was devastated by the news holding a memorial for King T’challa with his Avengers toys.
Speaking to NBC News, one parent said: "I was proud that my little Black boy saw someone who had his skin tone be a king and stand up for others," Mobley said. "I love that he saw himself in the Avengers."
May Chadwick Boseman’s legacy continue inspiring young and old. Wakanda Forever.
Written by Adrienne Watson, Group member of B.O.E