On Aug. 28, film and television lost one of their most influential Black actors, Chadwick Boseman.
The headliner of the blockbuster film, “Black Panther,” passed away from colon cancer at the age of 43.
Though his untimely death shocked millions, his film career and inspiring fight for racial justice are what will keep his memory alive.
Boseman began his career in acting after he graduated from Howard University, a historically Black college in the year 2000. He returned in 2018 to deliver the commencement address and discussed how in his early career, he was fired from a role because he questioned the producers and directors about the inclusion and active use of stereotypes.
“Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” Boseman said during his address. “When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.”
Ever since the beginning of his acting career, he was an outspoken activist and an inspiration to young Black Americans. He would often speak about the challenges faced by historical figures he played as well as his own challenges in being a successful Black man in America.
His breakthrough role was in the 2013 film, “42,” where he played Jackie Robinson, the first Black American to play Major League Baseball outside of a segregated Black league. Robinson withstood all examples of racial injustice, from verbal to physical attacks to abuse for breaking the barrier of segregation.
After his successful debut in “42,” he then played the role of James Brown in the film, “Get On Up,” thus earning the reputation of playing historical Black figures in film.
His next iconic film role was the portrayal of Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall in the film “Marshall.” The American lawyer and civil rights activist defended an innocent Black man during the time of legalized segregation. Marshall later became the first African American member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Written in the Sept. 5 edition of the Economist in the obituary section, it is said that Boseman, “slipped into each role, studiously, scene by scene, [and] kept one thought in mind. His character was a strong black man in a world that conflicted with his strength…But there was something in him, some particular talent, or obsession, or part of his past, that made him stand tall. That made him say, 'No.'"
The most successful and famous role Boseman played was the Black king T’Challa in the film, “Black Panther.” Boseman was the first Black lead in a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film and sequentially became the headliner of one of the most important movies for Black Americans and African representation in this decade. It won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture in the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“Black Panther” broke box office records and became the first film headlining a superhero to be nominated for the Academy Award for best picture, as well as earning six other nominations and winning three, becoming the MCU’s first Oscar-winning film according to NPR journalist, Malaka Gharib.
“It’s a movie about what it means to be Black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world.” Time Magazine journalist Jamil Smith said. “Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day Black life.”
The film “Black Panther” is evidence that a depiction of reality with people of color rather than whiteness can be even more profitable and successful than one could ever conceive.
“We knew we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see,” Boseman said. “We knew that we had something to give.”