Even without the disruption of COVID-19 and shifting landscape due to social change, Chadwick Boseman’s death would still be a heavy one to bear.
He became an icon, not just to the global Black and African American community, but to the world as T’Challa, king of Wakanda in Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The groundbreaking and award-winning film redefined the image of Black people on the screen and behind the lens with a predominately all-Black cast and director. Boseman presented the world with a regal, masculine and proud Black superhero on the screen that lit a social and cultural revolution.
This was just one of many iconic roles Boseman played throughout his career, which was tragically short but powerful.
He was born on November 29, 1976, in Anderson, South Carolina to Carolyn and Leroy Boseman. His father was a textile factory worker and his mother was a nurse. Boseman attended T. L. Hanna High School, and in his junior year, wrote and staged a play entitled, “Crossroads,” after a classmate was shot and killed. He went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.
Actress Phylicia Rashad became his mentor and helped raise funds with actor, Denzel Washington so Boseman and classmates could attend Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in London.
Boseman had a passion to write and direct, and initially studied acting to learn how to relate to actors. After he returned to the U.S., he graduated from New York City’s Digital Film Academy. Living in Brooklyn, Boseman worked as a drama instructor in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York.
Boseman performed in many stage productions including “Breathe,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Bootleg Blues,” and “Zooman.” He won an AUDELCO award for his role in “Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms,” a play about a struggling African American family pulled in by the temptation of fast cash. He’s also worked with the Hip Hop Theatre Festival and has written the plays “Hieroglyphic Graffiti,” “Deep Azure” and “Rhyme Deferred.” Boseman also directed a number of stage productions, as well as the short film, “Blood Over a Broken Pawn.”
In the mid-2000s, his acting career started with guest spots on crime dramas like “Third Watch” and “CSI:NY,” and on the daytime soap opera, “All My Children,” but was let go from the show after he voiced concerns over racial stereotypes in the script. The character would be recast with future “Black Panther” co-star, Michael B. Jordan. Additionally, he was one of the performers for the award-winning audio version of the 2005 novel “Upstate,” by Kalisha Buckhanon.
In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, landing a recurring role on the ABC Family drama “Lincoln Heights.” He also had guest-starring roles on “ER,” “Lie to Me,” “The Glades” and “Cold Case.” Boseman would appear on a number of popular television shows, which include “Persons Unknown,” “Justified,” “Detroit 1-8-7,” “Fringe” and “Castle.”
In 2012, Boseman played the lead role in “The Kill Hole,” an independent film about the life of a Portland, Oregon, taxi driver and Iraq War veteran. He later received the role of a lifetime portraying Jackie Robinson in the biopic “42,” which tells the story of the legendary baseball player who broke racial barriers by becoming the first African American to play in the majors in the 20th century.
He later appeared in the 2014 football film “Draft Day,” with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. Boseman went on to land another big role portraying music legend, James Brown in “Get on Up.” The film followed Brown through his personal struggles and successes. His next role was in “Gods of Egypt” playing Thoth, the god of wisdom and later starred in the revenge thriller “Message from the King,” in late 2016.
It was also in 2016, that Boseman would take on the role that gained international fame and acclaim as T’Challa aka Black Panther in the superhero ensemble blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War.” In 2017, he portrayed yet another important figure, Justice Thurgood Marshall in “Thurgood,” which was about a case early in Thurgood’s legal career.
In February 2018, the highly-anticipated “Black Panther” shattered box office records, making an estimated $218 million domestically over the four-day President’s Day weekend, it went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Boseman’s Black Panther later rejoined Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and other Marvel characters on screen for “Avengers: Infinity War” 2018 and “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019. Later that year, Boseman starred in “21 Bridges,” a film about a NYPD detective on the hunt for two cop killers.
Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020, from colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2016. Boseman persevered and battled the disease while appearing in multiple films, including “Black Panther” to the ignorance of many around him.
Many across social media have expressed their grief over the loss of their “King,” as the rallying call “Wakanda Forever” is hash tagged to just about every other posts. Boseman’s peers spent the weekend expressing their pain, but also their joy and gratitude in having known the game changer personally.
“Through it all, you never lost sight of what you loved most. You cared about your family, your friends, your craft, your spirit. You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity. You cared about me. You are my big brother, but I never fully got a chance to tell you, or to truly give you your flowers while you were here. I wish we had more time.” —Michael B. Jordan
“This hurts. Really hurts.” —Letitia Wright
“Words can’t begin to describe the pain that many of us, especially his family are feeling right now. Had to imagine the quiet pain and struggle you went thru all these years, yet still you shined and motivated us all. Live like a Superhero, die like a Legend. Rest In Power KING” —Denzel Washington
“How do I start to honor a man who I saw as a giant in many ways; with whom I thought I had so much more time … I am absolutely devastated by the loss of my friend and hero, Chadwick Boseman …” —Winston Duke
“How do you honor a king? Reeling from the loss of my colleague, my friend, my brother.” —Danai Gurira
“This young man’s dedication was awe-inspiring, his smile contagious, his talent unreal. So, I pay tribute to a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother … ’thou aren’t not dead but flown afar …’ All you possessed, Chadwick, you freely gave. Rest now, sweet prince. #WakandaForever” —Angela Bassett
It’s clear from the outpouring of love across social media from his colleagues, fans and admirers, that Boseman was loved. Many speak of his generous spirit, wisdom and dedication, which will undoubtedly leave a lasting mark on Hollywood. It’s bittersweet, but we will always remember Boseman when we hear those words “Wakanda Forever” and how they inspire cultural pride and love for the Black Diaspora.