The legacy of Chadwick Boseman

Joshua Paneto, Contributing Writer

“Long Live the King”, the fitting tagline on the poster for 2018’s “Black Panther”, captures this moment in history. As the world continues to recover from the shock of Boseman’s death following a private, four-year battle with colon cancer, we reflect on what the famed actor has left behind. He has left a story. A story of importance, determination, and Black excellence among many other things. Although Boseman is no longer with us, his story continues. It is a shared responsibility left to his family, friends, fans (all of us really), to tell and to keep alive.

Chadwick Boseman crammed a lifetime of iconic roles into a brief span, and his premature loss is made even more tragic by the thoughts of where his career could have gone in the years ahead. He was not an overnight success. Boseman performed in various roles for about a decade before catching his big break in 2013 in “42”. This role gave both fans and critics just a taste of his ability to find the humanity in larger-than-life figures. His performance in “42” would lead to roles in “Get On Up,” playing James Brown in a biography chronicling his rise from poverty to stardom; and “Marshall,” portraying future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in his early courtroom career and fight for justice. Although he never consciously sought out these roles steeped in cultural significance, it was as if he was born possessing the qualities to breath new life into legendary characters. In 2018, he asserted himself as a beacon of hope and legacy for future generations, when he starred in “Black Panther”. This is Marvel’s first Black superhero film. Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa became a cultural phenomenon. His poise and command of the screen latched onto the climate of a world divided by political, social, and cultural identities — this remains relevant, as the United States continues to grapple with issues of racial injustice and inequality. Boseman’s contribution to cinema was never about himself. He wanted to see the larger collective good, brought about through the art he loved, and his dedication to his craft will serve as an inspiration to many, regardless of race, for generations.

Boseman iconic work as Black Panther in his solo outing, as well as in the Avengers franchise will be played and replayed for years to come. His more modest forays into America’s past represent an equally rich part of his legacy, reflecting Boseman’s unique ability to breathe life into a variety of legendary characters. This further cements his place in history as one of the most influential actors of the 21st century.