On Aug. 28, the world learned about Chadwick Boseman’s death from a social media post provided by his team. His life and legacy to the Black community are monumental, and his importance and impact on cinema created an unprecedented amount of support that can never be replicated.
Throughout his career, Boseman played many historical Black figures such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall. His focus on playing Black heroes made him very involved in the Black community and showed how much he cared about portraying Black historical figures.
During the filming of "Black Panther," he pointed out that T’Challa should speak in an African accent to show that Wakanda was not colonized by British settlers. This detail introduced a level of autonomy put African culture in the national spotlight and created important discourse about the struggles that Black Americans face every day.
The theatrical release of "Black Panther" in 2018 made Boseman and his castmates into superstars, and throughout their public appearances, they highlighted the difficulties they faced as Black actors trying to navigate the film industry. During their Screen Actors Guild Awards acceptance speech, he talked about the rejection and hardship they faced while creating "Black Panther" and how they were constantly denied representation that they fairly deserved.
Fans were shocked to recently learn that he had been battling colon cancer privately since 2016. During this time, he was filming "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," in addition to constant training for a year to prepare. He worked out for up to four hours a day, his personal trainer Addison Henderson said. This extreme exercise regime shows how dedicated he was to his craft, as he was training while dealing with the effects of treatment, which is often brutal.
His actions outside of acting helped show us what type of person he was. He visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee to visit children who were battling cancer. In 2018, he broke down during a SiriusXM interview with his cast mates while discussing the story of two terminally ill boys who wanted to be able to see “Black Panther.” His TV appearances helped to shred that veil of celebrity and reveal his humanity which is so often taken away from Black actors.
His silence toward his diagnosis allowed him to maintain a level of privacy usually not seen for public figures of his level. If he had disclosed his illness before he died, everything he did before his death would have been filtered through the eyes of his illness. Perhaps he felt he would be seen not as a human, but as a statistic.
By staying silent about his illness, he was able to control his public image in an incredibly powerful way. For many people, forced silence as a response to trauma is a truth that often has to be dealt with in private to avoid scrutiny and dehumanization.
Watching Boseman in "Black Panther" meant much more than simply seeing another superhero movie. It was capturing Black excellence without relying on either shock value or overused stereotypes so often placed on Black characters.
His work gave us representation that illustrates the humanity of Black people, which is so often ignored from major magazines and movie studios. It showed the world that narratives about Black people and Black issues can be profitable and artistic without focusing on trauma or trivialized events.
Throughout his life, Boseman symbolized the talent and beauty of Black people without having to compromise their values. He represents excellence in humanity and an incredible beacon for Black children to look up to. He will be remembered as a pioneering figure in the Black community and his legacy will be celebrated for years to come.