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Brilliant, kind, learned, and humble: Tributes pour in for Chadwick Boseman

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose work celebrated African-American pioneers and culture, died age 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer.

Boseman never publicly discussed his condition and continued to work on major Hollywood films during and between “countless” operations and chemotherapy, his family said in a statement.

“It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther,” they said.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all,” the statement added.

He died in his home on Friday “with his wife and family by his side,” it said.

Boseman played the first black superhero to get his own standalone film in the record-breaking Marvel franchise with 2018’s Black Panther.

The movie, set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, was adored by critics and audiences, becoming the first comic book film to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars and grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

The news of Boseman’s death sent shockwaves through Hollywood and around the world.

“The true power of @chadwickboseman was bigger than anything we saw on screen,” wrote Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“From the Black Panther to Jackie Robinson, he inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want – even super heroes.” Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris said she was “heartbroken” and referenced Howard University in Washington, nicknamed Bison, where they both studied.

“My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble,” she tweeted.

“He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family.”

Boseman’s final post to Twitter, on August 12, was to congratulate Harris the day after she was announced as the Democratic candidate for vice president in the 2020 election.



Chris Evans, who played Captain America in the Marvel series, tweeted: “Chadwick was special. A true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create. I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship.”

 

Another of Boseman’s Marvel co-stars, Mark Ruffalo, tweeted: “Brother, you were one of the all time greats and your greatness was only beginning. Lord love ya.”

Both Evans and Ruffalo signed off their tweets: “Rest in power, King.”

Leading US civil rights organization the NAACP praised Boseman for “showing us how to conquer adversity with grace” and “to walk as a King, without losing the common touch.” “#RestInPower #BlackPantherForever,” its tweet concluded.

Boseman had recently appeared in Spike Lee’s Vietnam War-set Da 5 Bloods, and was set to appear in a sequel to Black Panther due in 2022.

“Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace,” wrote the official Marvel Twitter account.

"We never know what people are enduring,” Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote on Twitter in a salute to the actor. “Humans ... we are wonders. Thank you, Chadwick, for gifting us with your greatness in the midst of a painful struggle.

"Oprah Winfrey wrote: "What a gentle gifted soul. Showing us all that greatness between surgeries and chemotherapy. This is what dignity looks like".

 

Award-winning musician John Legend said Boseman "brought grace, elegance and power to everything he did. He always seemed to carry our ancestors with him".

His character T’Challa, king and protector of technologically advanced Wakanda, was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, having been featured in The Fantastic Four in 1966.

The Marvel film was celebrated as an important cultural moment for its mainly Black cast, and for subverting stereotypes.

Boseman shrugged off doubters who tried to convince him not to give the superhero an African accent.

“There was a time period where people would ask me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character that spoke with that accent,” he said at the time.

“I became adamant about the fact that it’s not true,” he added.

Embraced by global audiences, Black Panther became the second highest grossing movie at box offices worldwide in 2018, heralded for its vibrant celebration of African culture and applauded as a milestone for racial diversity in Hollywood.

The film was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture. It won three Academy Awards – in the best original score, best costume design and best production design categories. It also won the top Screen Actors Guild award that year for best movie ensemble.


Boseman, a native of South Carolina, began his screen career in episodes of television dramas such as Third Watch, Law & Order and ER.

He made his feature film debut with a small part in the 2008 sports biopic The Express, a drama based on the life of college football hero Ernie Davis, the first Black player to win the Heisman trophy.

He went on to star as a number of other real-life characters famed for breaking America’s racial barriers, including soul singer James Brown in Get on Up, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, and baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in 42. 

But the actor’s most memorable role was his performance as T’Challa.

Boseman originated the Black Panther film role two years earlier in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and reprised the part twice more in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.

In June, Boseman joined more than 300 Black actors and filmmakers who signed an open letter urging Hollywood to steer away from entertainment glorifying police brutality and corruption and to invest in anti-racist content.

The letter was written in the midst of a cultural and political reckoning with systematic racism in the United States in the wake of the George Floyd death in Minneapolis. – AFP/REUTERS
 

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