Monday, June 28, 2021

The Political Legacy of Chadwick Boseman

I’ve been honoring actor Chadwick Boseman at The Wild Reed on the 28th day of every month since his death last year on August 28. Chadwick died of colon cancer, and although he had been living with the disease since 2016, he never spoke of it publicly.

Today, ten months to the day since his passing, the honoring continues with my sharing of an appreciation written by Monica Moorehead and first published in Workers World a week after Chadwick’s passing. Moorehead’s appreciation recognizes and honors the Chad’s political activism and legacy.


Like so many millions of other movie-going fans, I was shocked and saddened with the news of the untimely death of super-talented African American actor, Chadwick Boseman, who died at the young age of 43 on August 28.

His family let it be known that he had finally succumbed to stage IV colon cancer, following a four-year battle with the disease that began in 2016. A few days after his death, Twitter owners announced that Boseman’s death had been the most retweeted ever at six million to date.

The worldwide outpouring of respect, affection and sadness had much to do with Boseman’s powerful movie portrayal of T’Challa, the African king of the mystical land of Wakanda, that originated in the Marvel comic series, “Black Panther.”

When the blockbuster movie Black Panther debuted in 2018, it broke all kinds of box-office records, grossing $1.3 billion worldwide. It became the first movie in Hollywood history with a nearly all-Black cast and a Black director, Ryan Coogler, to achieve this feat. Boseman was praised for portraying T’Challa with such grace, dignity and power. No one knew while filming Black Panther in 2017 that Boseman had been diagnosed with cancer the year before.

Boseman had put his indelible stamp on much smaller budget films before Black Panther. Those films included 42 in 2013, playing Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947; Get On Up in 2014, playing legendary soul singer James Brown; and in Marshall in 2017, playing the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, in his early days as a lawyer

Sports leagues and players in leagues including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association honored Boseman on social media.

A strong supporter of Black Lives Matter

Boseman had publicly admired the heroic anti-war stance taken by the late Muhammad Ali during the late 1960s.

In a recent Instagram post, Boseman expressed solidarity with Black Lives Matter stating, “From this country’s founding history; its economic base, its social standard, its penal system, its protection of property . . . ⁣White Supremacy and Racial Prejudice are its Pre-existing Conditions.⁣ Change is here. #BlackLivesMatter.”

Even while terminally ill, Boseman along with 300 other prominent Black entertainers and celebrities signed a public letter demanding that the Hollywood industry divest in various ways from the police. In part the letter reads:

“Historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness. The way that Hollywood and mainstream media have contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence has had dire consequences on Black lives. We demand better. Prove that Black Lives Matter to Hollywood by taking bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives. Follow the examples of the Minneapolis School District, Denver Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and many other institutions in divesting from the policing system and investing in the Black community.”

Boseman brings to mind a comparison to the great actor, Sidney Poitier, who during his career, which began in the late 1940s, consciously took roles that were devoid of negative Hollywood stereotypes of Black people. This has been a constant characteristic from Boseman’s early days as an actor, when he was fired from the soap opera, All My Children, for complaining how his character was negatively written.

The pain of Boseman dying so soon will linger for a long time, but the political legacy he left behind, with his genuine acting of such integrity, will inspire new generations of Black filmmakers and film buffs of all nationalities.

Monica Moorehead
Chadwick Boseman: An Appreciation
Workers World
September 7, 2020

NEXT: Remembering an Actor Who “Changed Everything”

Related Off-site Links:
Cancer Survivor Kevin Boseman Performs Dance Tribute to His Late Brother Chadwick Boseman – Karu F. Daniels (New York Daily News, June 20, 2021).
Chadwick Boseman's Parents Speak Exclusively to WYFF News 4 in First Interview Since His Passing – Allen Devlin (WYFF 4 News, June 18, 2021).
Howard University Rolling Out Chadwick Boseman-Inspired Master ClassTMZ (May 31, 2021).
Howard University Names Newly Re-Established College of Fine Arts for Chadwick Boseman – Angelique Jackson (Variety, May 26, 2021).
Black Panther Fans “Nervous” About Sequel Without Chadwick BosemanShowbiz Cheat Sheet (May 25, 2021).
MTV Awards 2021: Chadwick Boseman Posthumously Wins Best Performance in a Movie; Receives Standing Ovation – Pamela Avila, Cydney Henderson, Anika Reed (USA Today, May 17, 2021).
Black Panther II “So Respectful” of Chadwick Boseman Loss, Lupita Nyong’o Says – Akhil Arora (Gadgets 360, May 3, 2021).
Marvel Reveals Black Panther Sequel's Title and Release Date in Nostalgic Mega-Trailer – Jenna Ryu (USA Today, May 3, 2021).

For The Wild Reed’s series that remembers and celebrates Chadwick Boseman, see:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
Honoring An Icon
Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”
Chadwick Boseman’s Final Film Role: “A Reed Instrument for Every Painful Emotion”
Celebrating a Special Day
Boseman on Wilson
Chadwick Boseman and That “Heavenly Light”
In This Time of Grief
A Bittersweet Accolade
Chadwick Boseman Receives Posthumous NAACP Image Award
“He Was Just Interested In the Work”
Remembering Chadwick Boseman’s Life of Purpose

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee’s Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther

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