Obituary: Chadwick Boseman, A King Both On and Off the Screen

Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman has died at the age of 43, his family revealed on social media this morning.

With the announcement came the news that Boseman had been fighting colon cancer since 2016, and passed at his home with his wife and family by his side. 

The actor had an extremely successful career. He broke into Hollywood with his portrayals of Jackie Robinson and James Brown (in the films 42 and Get On Up, respectively), but it is his role as T’Challa, king of the fictional Wakanda and superhero Black Panther, for which he will be most widely remembered. He portrayed the character four times – for many he was a highlight of Captain America: Civil War, while his solo film became the first superhero movie with a predominantly Black cast to crack $1 billion at the worldwide box office. He also appeared in the third and fourth Avengers films. 

Online tributes have poured in for the star. Captain Marvel actor Brie Larson described Boseman as “someone who radiated power and peace”; former Captain America Chris Evans said he was “a deeply committed and constantly curious artist” who “had so much amazing work still left to create”; director Jordan Peele described the news as “a crushing blow”, while filmmaker Barry Jenkins simply tweeted: “In power. Eternally in power.” Oprah Winfrey described him as “a gentle, gifted soul,” and actor Simu Liu (star of Marvel’s upcoming Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) pointed out in a tweet that “without Chadwick, and what he gave to his character, there is no Shang Chi. [Liu’s] career rides on the coattails of a great man.”

The importance of Boseman’s role as Black Panther cannot be overstated. The film made history upon its release in 2018, opening to rave reviews and going on to become the highest-grossing film of all time by a Black director, as well as scoring seven Oscar nominations. Boseman’s family said it was “the honour of his life” to portray the character, and it is easy to see why – he is the reason that Black children across the world no longer have to ask their parents what a Black superhero looks like, or why there aren’t any Avengers that look like them.

Boseman helped open the door to an entire generation of young people, and in doing so told them that there absolutely is a place for Black people on the big screen. He helped change superhero movies forever, and his legacy will never be forgotten. 

Rest in power, King. You will be sorely missed. 

Words by Matt Taylor

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