A tribute to Chadwick Boseman

Photo of the late Chadwick Boseman, courtesy of Wikimedia.

Mallory Boring 
Arts & Entertainment Staff Writer

Chadwick Boseman, the actor who brought to life many important Black characters died  Aug. 28, 2020.

According to a statement posted to his social media accounts, Boseman died in his Los Angeles home surrounded by his family. He was 43. 

Boseman was born Nov. 29, 1979 in Anderson, South Carolina. He was the youngest of three boys and got the inspiration to study the arts from his older brother, Kevin. In high school he played basketball. Boseman turned to storytelling following the tragic death of a friend and teammate.

After high school Boseman attended Howard University. He aspired to be a director and was invited to the British American Drama Academy along with some classmates. When the students could not afford the trip, their teacher Tony Award-winning actress and director Phylicia Rashad reached out to Denzel Washington who later became a friend and colleague of Boseman.

Boseman rose to fame later in his life. He was 35 when he played his first prominent role as Jackie Robinson in “42.” Boseman also embodied other important Black figures. He portrayed James Brown in “Get On Up” and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”

His most famous role, however, is that of T’Challa in the movie “Black Panther.” The film has become one of the highest-grossing films of all time having earned over $1.3 billion globally. 

The film was groundbreaking for many reasons.

“Black Panther” was the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist and the first film to feature a mostly Black cast. It has helped pave the way for Black-led films and Black artists.

Boseman understood the significance of the role. The statement on his Instagram account called it “The honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life.”

Boseman was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2016. It had progressed to stage four by the time of his death. While enduring surgeries and chemotherapy to combat the disease Boseman continued to make films. The films “Marshall,” “Da 5 Bloods,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and others were made between treatments. “Black Panther” was also filmed after his diagnosis. 

The news of Boseman’s death was met with worldwide grief. Many prominent figures shared tributes to his life and legacy.

“Black Panther” costar Michael B. Jordan wrote a touching tribute to his friend in which he repeatedly stated, “I wish we had more time.”  

Former President Barack Obama said of Boseman, “To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them [the children] heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain—what a use of his years.” 

Boseman’s Avengers costar Mark Ruffalo also expressed a sentiment felt by many, “All I have to say is the tragedies amassing this year have only been made more profound by the loss of #Chadwick Boseman.” 

Many others shared their memories of Boseman and sent condolences to his loved ones.

In addition to the impact made on the lives of those who knew him intimately, Boseman had profound impacts on his numerous fans. His influence was felt especially by the Black community. 

Zinaejah Ozier, a junior communications student at the University of Dayton and a member of the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center (MEC), shared her thoughts on the impact Boseman and his career had. 

“For me, Chadwick was so important because he played roles like James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall which were all important people in the black community and he played them on the screen so well.” 

Ozier also stressed the importance of his role as T’Challa, calling him “a superhero that we all looked up to and a movie that trended for years.” 

Another member of MEC, junior sociology and criminal justice double major Amira Fitzpatrick, said one of the most important things about Boseman was the “overall lack of representation in the superhero world,” calling T’Challa the “first thing for us where we could see black excellence and have our own superhero.” Fitzpatrick also stressed the importance of Boseman for Black youth.

The loss of Chadwick Boseman is another tragedy in what has been a difficult year for many people. His legacy will continue on long after his passing in the memories of his family, friends and fans. Boseman was not only an actor but a role model and a symbol of hope for the Black community. He will be greatly missed.