In 2016, the world finally got its first black superhero in Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther became one of the most admired Avengers by 2019. But on August 28th, 2020, the world’s first black superhero was laid to rest in honor. Chadwick Boseman was not just an actor or an Avenger. He was a fighter and a leader for the advancement of all black voices.
Acting wasn’t a job or hobby for Boseman; it was his way to fight for change. He has been determined to overcome the suppression black voices face in film since his first day on screen. In the 2003 show All My Children, Boseman was cast as Reggie Porter. He played the role for just one week before he was replaced by Michael B. Jordan. Boseman spoke up against the creators of the soap opera because his character embodied the negative stereotypes surrounding black people. While he was replaced, his voice did make a difference. The creators took a few of his suggestions to minimize the racial bias on the show, but this was just the start.
In every role, Boseman strived to accurately represent black voices that have been suppressed throughout history. He played Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall. He played a black superhero, an unimaginable idea twenty years ago. Fighting through colon cancer the past four years, there wasn’t a hint of struggle on Boseman’s face as he fought for the advancement of black voices through the screen. He acted in seven movies within four years, amidst his Stage III colon cancer, all with the hope that one day the world would celebrate black voices loudly and proudly.
Between nonstop filming and touring, actors rarely get time to themselves. Chadwick Boseman not only filmed seven movies amid his chemotherapy, he even visited cancer patients at St. Jude’s while filming Black Panther and Avengers back to back. For those who couldn’t attend group meetings with him due to their treatments, he visited them separately and even helped a young girl celebrate her birthday in her hospital room. He often spent more time at St. Jude’s than he actually could between shoots, risking facing trouble with the Marvel team. He inspired little kids even before they knew him as Black Panther. He was in touch with two little brothers, diagnosed with terminal cancer, throughout filming Black Panther. These little boys were holding on as long as they could just so they could see their first black superhero onscreen. Boseman was the reason these two boys fought for their lives. Cancer took them, but Boseman gave them hope in their last few days.
Chadwick Boseman did not act to gain recognition or stardom. In 2018, when he won the MTV Movie & TV Award for best hero, he gave it to James Shaw Jr. Shaw, who had stopped a gunman at a Waffle House in Tennessee, preventing further fatalities, and started a GoFundMe for the victims. Boseman honored his fellow real life hero on the stage, and gave him his award, honoring another black voice with his platform.
Chadwick Boseman has not left us. Boseman’s last movie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is scheduled to release later this year. Produced by Denzel Washington, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gives a peek inside the lives of black artists in early 1900s America. This is yet another movie Boseman filmed to advance black voices and to make an impact.
Boseman came to Hollywood with a purpose. Every movie he made has honored black voices throughout history. Every hospital trip, he made left the patients inspired and optimistic. Boseman kept much of his life secret. He wasn’t just a movie star. He was an Avenger by day, and a secret real life super hero by night. Chadwick Boseman has not left us. His legend will live on. Long Live the King.
Sharma is a junior in the MSB studying Marketing.