Chadwick Boseman at the Stan Lee Hand and Footprint Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on July 18, 2017, in Los Angeles, CA – LOS ANGELES – July 18 (Shutterstock)
By Victoria Falk
Chadwick Boseman, also known as Chad, began his career in New York in 2003. He taught drama to youth in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. In 2003, Boseman landed a role on a daytime soap opera. However, he was fired after he voiced concerns about racial stereotypes in the script.
A few years later, Boseman moved to remain unknown until 2013 when he played Jackie Robinson in the movie “42”, which was so named because that was Robinson’s uniform number. The film was about the integration of baseball in the 1940s. Boseman spent time with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, to learn about the player, who endured racism as baseball’s first Black player in the 20th century. He also trained with baseball coaches for several months. Rachel Robinson was thrilled by Chad Boseman’s depiction of her late husband. During previous interviews with Time Magazine, Mrs. Robinson said, “I was moved to tears.”
In 2014, Chad Boseman played James Brown, “the Godfather of Soul,” in “Get on Up.”
He learned the performer’s famed dance moves and songs in preparation for the role. Audiences were impressed at how well he copied Brown’s mannerisms and dances.
In 2017, Boseman portrayed Thurgood Marshall. In the movie “Marshall”, we learn about the civil rights attorney who became the first African American justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
The movie takes us back to the 1940s court case that was a defining moment in Thurgood Marshall’s career.
Boseman was careful in the roles he selected. He felt it his responsibility to depict strong Black men from the past.
In a former interview with Esquire magazine, Boseman reportedly said, “I’ve always felt it important to play these historical figures.”
In 2018, “Black Panther” was released. Black Panther is a fictional superhero, whose real name in the comics is T’Challa. T’Challa is the King and protector of a fictional African country called “Wakanda.” When T’Challa transformed into the Black Panther, he had super strength, genius-level intelligence, and was able to call upon all the previous Black Panthers’ knowledge. Black Panther is the first African superhero to be depicted in American comics.
When asked what Boseman’s legacy meant to him, Anthony Austin, owner of On The Scene Media Group LLC, said, “When the movie Black Panther was in previews, I had never seen such energy in our community over a movie before. When they revealed the actor, Chad Boseman was the leader, a feeling of pride rose in my chest. The image of a superhero that looked like me, dark in complexion and polished, emphasized that we come in many packages and not what is often portrayed on television. Once I did my research and saw all the biopics he starred in, I said to myself, he is a messenger to our community, especially our youth, with education and perseverance you can achieve greatness.”
Chadwick Boseman’s role as T’Challa/ Black Panther made him an international star. The movie became a symbol of pride for Black moviegoers who enjoyed seeing a superhero who looked like them. Many Black moviegoers reported seeing the film multiple times. The movie, with its predominantly Black cast and a Black director, became a cultural landmark. People of African descent, all over the world, were proclaiming, “Wakanda Forever” as they copied Boseman’s salute, with his arms crossed over his chest. As a result of the movie, Black Americans had an increased sense of identity and felt more connected to Africa. Many Black women cut their hair short and embraced natural hairstyles like the characters in the movie. Women and men dreamed of visiting Wakanda’s fictional land, and interest in travel to Africa increased. Parents, educators, celebrities, and others stressed the importance of Black youth seeing this inspirational movie, and it became the field trip of choice for many students. Chad Boseman fully understood the cultural significance of his role as T’Challa and the Black Panther. When Black Panther was released, Boseman purchased tickets for hundreds of underprivileged youth, and they enjoyed the movie as his special guests. The community was proud of him.
“Black Panther” was the first superhero movie nominated for an Oscar for best picture.
The film won Oscars for music, costumes, and production design. “Black Panther” also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for the best acting ensemble.
Chad Boseman received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for his role in the “Black Panther.” The movie became the highest-grossing film in the United States, with over $1.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales.
While battling cancer, without revealing his illness, Chad Boseman continued acting.
In 2019, he appeared in “21 Bridges” in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” and had a role in the filmed version of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” scheduled to be released later this year.
Chadwick Boseman also found time to motivate others. High school senior, Stephanie Williams recalled, “Even though he was sick, he was on social media motivating young people and encouraging people to vote. His death is a difficult loss, especially at this time when we are losing good people to the pandemic, and innocent Black men are being shot and killed by the police. Black men have lost a great role model.”
On August 28, 2020, at age 43, Chad Boseman lost his 4-year battle with colon cancer. Performing Artist, LeRuz LaRose said, “Chadwick Boseman seemed to be a special human being God wanted us to see before his time was upon this world.”
More Than An Actor, A Great Man
Mark Alston, CEO of Alston Entertainment, said, “Chad Boseman’s death affected the world because he was the perfect man to play Black Panther. Not because he was a dynamic actor who deserved the role; it was because of the goodness and the strength we saw in the man. We knew Chad was a good man who wanted to see good in the world. We felt the love in him. I will miss his presence dearly.” Promoter and Business Advocate, Lawrence Ben Miles, said, “We lost a great man. RIP Chadwick. Although he was ill, he was living his best life. He left behind a great body of work.”
Chad died on the observance of Jackie Robinson Day, seven years after playing the role of Jackie Robinson in the movie “42.” Every major league player wore the number 42 in Robinson’s honor. Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jackie Robinson’s former team, issued statements honoring Boseman and remembering Robinson’s portrayal. People from all different walks of life, including entertainers, educators, politicians, and others such as Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, the former President of the United States Barack Obama, and first lady, and Michelle Obama, and many more, paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman on television and social media.
One of the most touching tributes came from his Black Panther co-star, Michael B. Jordan. Jordan posted a social media message about Boseman’s passing, repeating a mournful mantra: “I wish we had more time.” His full post reads:
“I’ve been trying to find the words, but nothing comes close to how I feel. I’ve been reflecting on every moment, every conversation, every laugh, every disagreement, every hug…everything.
“I wish we had more time.
“One of the last times we spoke, you said we were forever linked, and now the truth of that means more to me than ever. Since nearly the beginning of my career, starting with ‘All My Children’ when I was 16-years-old, you paved the way for me. You showed me how to be better, honor purpose, and create a legacy. And whether you’ve known it or not … I’ve been watching, learning, and constantly motivated by your greatness.
“I wish we had more time.
“Everything you’ve given the world … the legends and heroes that you’ve shown us we are … will live on forever. But the thing that hurts the most is that I now understand how much of a legend and hero YOU are. 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.
“I’m more aware now than ever that time is short with people we love and admire. I’m gonna miss your honesty, your generosity, your sense of humor, and incredible gifts. I’ll miss the gift of sharing space with you in scenes. I’m dedicating the rest of my days to live the way you did. With grace, courage, and no regrets. ‘Is this your king!?’ Yes. he. is! Rest In Power Brother.”
In his former hometown of South Carolina, flags flew at half-staff on August 30, 2020, to honor him. Chadwick Boseman: gone, but not forgotten. Boseman: A Great Man, Great Actor, and Global Icon. His legacy will live on in generations to come. Rest in peace our King. We love you. Wakanda Forever.