Chadwick Boseman: Remembering the spirit of the Black Panther


Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Boseman starred as many beloved characters, the most famous being the superhero Black Panther. He is survived by his wife Taylor Simone Ledward.

Chadwick Boseman, an American actor known for his role as the Black Panther, died on Aug. 28 at the age of 43 after a four year battle with colon cancer. 

Boseman was born on Nov. 29, 1976, in South Carolina and graduated from T.L. Hanna High School in 1995, where he wrote his first play called “Crossroads.” Boseman went to college at Howard University, graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts and directing. Soon after, he attended the Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in London and went on to graduate from the Digital Film Academy in New York.

At the start of his career, Boseman worked as a drama teacher in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program in Harlem, New York. He later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and landed his first role in a television show in 2003 called “Third Watch. In 2008 Boseman was cast in his first film, “The Express: The Ernie Davis Story.” 

“42” was Boseman’s first starring role, portraying baseball legend Jackie Robinson. He not only took on that role as a great American hero, but he embodied the essence of Robinson. Harrison Ford, who acted alongside Boseman in the film, gave a testament to Boseman’s good character saying, “He is as much a hero as any he played.” 

The role that defined Boseman’s career was his portrayal of T’Challa in the Marvel movie, “Black Panther.” Not only did Boseman create awareness of how important diversity in the media is, but he illuminated that there is a lack of afrofuturistic representation in America. 

Boseman won countless awards and nominations for his role as the Black Panther, including MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Performance in a Movie in 2018, MTV Movie Award for Best Hero in 2018, BET Award for Best Actor in 2018 and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture in 2019, to name a few. 

While Boseman was fearlessly fighting bad guys in films like “21 Bridges,” “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame,” he was simultaneously fighting his own battle with cancer, with the public being mostly unaware of this four year war. 

Boseman was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2016 which progressed into stage four by 2019. He was silent about his decline in health with the public and showed no signs of weakness as he took on roles that demanded physical strength and power. Boseman seemed to have embodied the same energy found in Vibranium hidden in the secret world of Wakanda. 

Boseman powerfully impacted Black culture by honoring African culture with the way he became deeply committed to his role. Not only did he strive for the perfect accent, but he wanted to celebrate African heritage by embodying it properly and proudly. Despite his illness, Boseman took on the strength he needed to have for the people who would look up to him as the first Black Marvel superhero.

Boseman did more than convey a comic book superhero onto the screen — he fought to normalize and bring pride to a culture that is not seen in the light that it deserves. Boseman “stood for so much more than himself,” as co-star Brie Larson said.  “He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. Few performers have such power and versatility,” co-star Chris Evans said. 

This tragic loss not only affects Boseman’s family and friends, but Marvel fans as they grieve the loss of a hero, of someone who broke down barriers and represented lives that are oppressed.

Robert Downey Jr. applauded Boseman’s strength, and articulated his strong, hero-like disposition best: “Mr. Boseman leveled the playing field while fighting for his life…That’s heroism…”