Written by Charissa Roberson
On Aug. 28, “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. The news of his death shocked the world, since Boseman had kept his health struggles a closely guarded secret from all but a few people. His fans, co-stars, and friends reeled from the loss of a man who was not only an acclaimed actor, but also a cultural icon and a real-life hero.
Boseman is best-known for his role as Black Panther in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. He played T’Challa, the young king of Wakanda, with a dignity and humble strength that captivated audiences across the globe. As the first black superhero lead in a major film, Boseman gave countless individuals a superhero who looked like them and represented their culture with pride and power. “Black Panther” became a cultural phenomenon, shattering box office records and winning three Academy Awards, the first ever for a Marvel film. King T’Challa was not the only iconic role Boseman took on. He also played baseball star Jackie Robinson in “42” (2013), “godfather of soul” James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014), and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” (2017).
Both on and off-screen, Boseman embodied heroism. In 2018, he visited St. Jude’s Hospital to bring toys, smiles and encouragement to young fans facing terminal diagnoses, even while fighting his own battle with cancer. After receiving the Movie & TV Award for Best Hero in a film, Boseman called James Shaw Jr. onstage—the man who stopped an armed gunman at a Waffle House in 2018—and presented the award to him for being a real-life hero. As always, Boseman used his celebrity influence as a platform to give to others and pour good into the world. He continued acting throughout surgeries and treatment, enduring rigorous shooting schedules and physically demanding roles without ever mentioning his illness. “Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity, and pride,” wrote “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, “he shielded his collaborators from his suffering.”
In the wake of Boseman’s passing, his co-stars and other celebrities have also expressed their grief in heartfelt tributes. “Chadwick was someone who radiated power and peace,” Marvel co-star Brie Larson wrote. “Who stood for so much more than himself.” Angela Basset, who played Boseman’s mother in “Black Panther,” described him as “a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother…All you possessed, Chadwick, you freely gave.” Whether in the characters he portrayed or the noble way he lived, Boseman left an indelible mark on the world. His legacy has been cemented not only as a great actor, but also as a great man. In a statement honoring Boseman, Chris Evans echoed the sentiments of many: “Rest in Power, King.”