Remembering Chadwick Boseman
By L. Cooper
Chadwick Boseman, who brought iconic Black historical figures Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson to life, and who epitomized strength and resilience as the star of the blockbuster superhero movie Black Panther, has died at the age of 43.
The actor was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 but chose not to make a public announcement at the time. Boseman died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 28, surrounded by his wife, Taylor Simone, and family.
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much, 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," his family posted on his Twitter account.
A native of Anderson, South Carolina, Boseman graduated from T.L. Hanna High School in 1995. It was there that he wrote his first play, Crossroads, and performed it after a classmate was murdered. Intending to pursue a career as a writer and director, Boseman attended Howard University's School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C.
One of his professors was the legendary Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role in the hit TV series The Cosby Show. Rashad saw his immense talent and decided to mentor him. Boseman began studying acting to better relate to actors, and, in 1998, he was accepted into the British American Drama Academy's Midsummer in Oxford Program. It was Rashad who helped raise funds, notably from a fellow actor, Denzel Washington, so that Boseman and his classmates could attend. Boseman graduated from Howard in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. After graduating, Boseman moved to New York, where he worked as a drama instructor at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He got his first television role in 2003 in an episode of Third Watch. The same year, he portrayed Reggie Montgomery in the daytime soap opera All My Children. Boseman later noted that he was fired from the show after voicing concerns to producers about racist stereotypes in the script. The role was subsequently recast with Boseman's future Black Panther co-star Michael B. Jordan. Boseman moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue a film career.
Just when he was about to give up on acting, Boseman secured a lead role as baseball great Jackie Robinson in 42. Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, commented that Boseman's performance was like seeing Jackie again. Sadly, Boseman's passing was announced on the same day Major League Baseball honored Jackie Robinson Day, an annual commemoration delayed by several months due to the global COVID0-19 pandemic. "His transcendent performance in 42 will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie's story to audiences for generations to come," Major League Baseball tweeted Friday about the actor.
In 2014, Boseman appeared opposite Kevin Costner in Draft Day, in which he played an NFL draft prospect. Later that year, he starred as James Brown in Get on Up, performing all of the singing and dancing himself. In 2016, Boseman starred as Thoth, a deity from Egyptian mythology, in Gods of Egypt. He then made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Black Panther in the live-action Captain America: Civil War. This was his first film in a five-picture deal with Marvel Studios.
Black Panther then got his stand-alone movie released in 2018. The film broke box-office records and earned Boseman an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild award. He reprised the role in the next two Avengers movies Infinity War and Endgame, which were released in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Both were the highest-grossing films of the year they were released, with Endgame becoming the highest-grossing film of all time. Marvel Studios had previously announced that the second movie of the Black Panther saga would debut in May 2022.
Boseman returned to his alma mater, Howard University, in 2018 as the commencement speaker. During his moving speech, he shared his trials and tribulations in Hollywood. "The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose," Boseman said, and then concluded with the iconic "Wakanda Forever" salute, crossing his arms over his chest.
Fans, fellow actors, celebrities and organizations paid tribute to Boseman via social media following the announcement of his death. Among them were former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, his running mate, vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and a number of Boseman's co-stars.
On August 29, 2020, the day after Boseman died, his Twitter account's final tweet became the most-liked tweet ever in Twitter history, with more than six million likes in less than 24 hours.