Remembering Chadwick Boseman

Reflecting on the late actor’s career and legacy

Boseman as King T’Challa.
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When we mourn Chadwick Boseman’s passing, we mourn the loss of a powerful Black actor whose work helped to shape Black representation in film over the last decade.

Boseman’s publicist issued a statement Aug. 28 announcing the actor had passed away in his home surrounded by his wife and family. A post made to his Instagram account following his death confirmed that he’d been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, which had progressed to Stage 4.

Boseman’s death came as a shock to both his fans and his industry. A private public figure, the actor had kept his diagnosis out of the public eye.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement issued on his Instagram said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”

Boseman’s breakthrough role, the biopic 42 in which he played Jackie Robinson, the first Black athlete to play in Major League Baseball, came somewhat late in his career—he was 35 years old—but his impact wasn’t stifled by it. The actor’s steady rise to success was marked by critically acclaimed performances and portrayals of Black historical figures, including singer James Brown and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Boseman’s most well-known performance was as the superhero Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The Black Panther film was groundbreaking in Hollywood and around the world, the first major superhero movie to centre on an African hero and the first of the genre to have a majority Black cast. The commitment and dedication Boseman brought to the role of T’Challa and the representation of African culture in the MCU not only cemented Black Panther as an acclaimed cultural phenomenon but helped make the movie one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

“It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther,” according to the statement on his Instagram.

Boseman was a profoundly talented and sought-after actor and was at the forefront of vital and important strides made for Black representation in entertainment and film. The impact of his work will continue to shape our culture long after his passing.

“We all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured,” Boseman said in a Screen Actors Guild Awards acceptance speech for Black Panther. “Yet you are young, gifted and Black […] That is what we went to work with every day, because we knew […] that we had something special that we wanted to give the world. That we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing. That we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see.”

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