The death of Chadwick Boseman came as a surprise to many on Aug. 28. When his family released a statement on his Twitter the day of his passing, it was revealed that the Black Panther star had been battling colon cancer out of the public eye. He was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2016 and continued to fight it privately. He died surrounded by loved ones in his home.
The late actor played many characters that provided great meaning and representation to the black community. This includes King T’Challa in Black Panther, Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get on Up and Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. Many tributes from fans and costars highlighted the importance of these roles in continuing to develop diverse, complex characters in the film world. Black Panther marked the first predominantly black cast in the Marvel universe with a black superhero at the forefront.
In this tribute by Black Panther's director, Ryan Coogler describes how Boseman wanted T’Challa to speak in an African accent so that he could demonstrate that the character’s dialect had not been conquered by the West. In this Time article, Jamil Smith describes the importance of details like this and the movie itself. According to Smith, the film depicted the challenges of race and identity faced by many African Americans in the U.S. today through the struggles between T’Challa and the antagonist, Killmonger. Chadwick Boseman also worked to break Hollywood stereotypes. His agent has shared with the media that he would turn down slave roles to bring more complex characters to the screen. According to his agent, he would only pick roles that he thought would lead to the betterment of humanity.
Other tributes to the actor’s legacy include one by his co-star Michael B. Jordan. In his Instagram post dedicated to Boseman's memory, he wrote, "You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity." Many of Boseman's fans have highlighted this care for the world in posts on social media. One trending post is a video from a conference in which he becomes emotional talking about two children with cancer that passed after describing their anticipation to watch the Black Panther film. Unknown to everyone who had watched the clip before his death, he was already fighting his own battle with cancer.
Many fans question what will happen with the Black Panther franchise since the second film was set to begin filming. Marvel Entertainment has not released its plans for the upcoming sequel and is instead focusing on tributes for the late actor. One includes this artwork by the Head of Visual Development for Marvel Studios. Other tributes from co-stars and fans alike continue to be made in the wake of his passing. To learn more about Boseman's career and legacy, you can now watch Chadwick Boseman - A Tribute for a King on Disney+ and his last film, Ma Rainy's Black Bottom, on Netflix later this year.