Chadwick Boseman’s legacy is engraved in vibranium. He will be remembered as an outstanding actor who had a non-negotiable commitment to how he represented the black man on the screen. His sudden demise has left his fans and friends in shock worldwide. The actor battled colon cancer for four years without ever openly discussing it. His grace and regality lit up his every appearance on and off-screen. Boseman brought his star power to political activism and often spoke about his experiences with racism while growing up.
The early loss of a magnificent actor is not only deeply personal for fans and cinema but for the whole Afro American community. In his body of work, Boseman became the icon for representation in American cinema.
Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy
What Boseman leaves behind is a legacy of the portrayal of some iconic Black men on screen. He brought his touch of sincerity and dedication. It is an unbearable thought that while he was undergoing cancer treatment in the past four years, he also gave us his most meaningful performances in that span.
In Spike Lee’s Da 5 Blood, Boseman’s last – he played Squad Leader Norman who refuses mutiny of his men due to the prevailing racism. ‘Chad is a superhero!’ — was Lee’s reasoning behind casting Boseman in the central role. He told the Atlantic:
This character is heroic; he’s a superhero. Who do we cast? We cast Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and we cast T’Challa [all characters played in prior films by Chadwick Boseman]. Chad is a superhero! That character is Christ like! Notice the way [the cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel] shot him. There’s light from heaven coming down from above on him.
And this pretty much sums up Chadwick Boseman’s legacy! In sports drama 42, Boseman essayed the role of Jackie Robinson, the first black American who made it in a major league. He effortlessly toughens his surroundings without any kind of self-pity – a much-needed portrayal that opened more dialogue around racism in sports. Ironically, Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day, seven years after portraying him. The day is typically celebrated in April, but was moved to August this year due to COVID-19.
In his 2017 Marshall, he played Thurgood Marshall, the first Afro-American Supreme Court Justice of the United States who defended a black man accused of raping a white woman. Boseman brought ingenious integrity in depicting Marshall’s struggle against racial prejudice. Further, he brought the same vigour and a hint of sexuality to his portrayal of musician James Brown in biopic drama Get on Up. He perfectly embodied Brown’s struggle to emerge as a music icon from immense misfortune.
Of course, it was Chadwick Boseman’s embodiment of King T’Challa aka Black Panther that got him international fame. The movie went on to become not just first Marvel movie but the first in the genre to score an Academy nomination. He made his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as T’Challa in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War. His standalone movie Black Panther was a celebration of diversity with an all-black cast and crew. Its was an afro-futurist love letter addressing the loss of life, culture, history and bigotry.
Watch: Chadwick Boseman On The Importance of Black Panther | Hip Hollywood
After Black Panther, Boseman also appeared in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. A high point in the movie, his war cry ‘Yibambe’ (meaning hold fast or hold strong) in the final battle of Endgame made fans across the world cry along with him. It was like he was born for Black Panther’s role. Boseman brings in the surreal introspection and vulnerability marking a transition of a warrior to a king as he assumes the throne. Now looking back, it’s unimaginable that Boseman was battling cancer during the same time. It seems like the strength and composure that T’Challa exudes maybe was drawn from Boseman’s own experience.
Boseman was not only a superhero onscreen but for his community too, bringing them the representation they deserve and in turn becoming an icon himself. While we can pray for the king rest in power, there’s a lot we can do, not just to preserve Chadwick Boseman’s legacy, but take it forward to its destination — Get inspired and hold fast! Something the actor stood for.
Before You Go
Quiz: Can you identify these African-American Heroes?