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Fans Are Remembering Chadwick Boseman And The Iconic Black Heroes He Portrayed Onscreen

"Chadwick Boseman is a big reason why our kids don’t have to wonder about what a Black superhero is."

Posted on August 29, 2020, at 3:05 p.m. ET

JJ Reddington / BuzzFeed News

Chadwick Boseman is photographed in New York on Nov. 20, 2019, for BuzzFeed News and AM2DM.

Actor Chadwick Boseman's career was defined by his portrayal of Black legends — both real and fictional — onscreen, including the first Black mainstream superhero, Black Panther, soul singer James Brown, baseball player Jackie Robinson, and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall.

Fans posted tributes to Boseman's notable body of work after his death Friday following a colon cancer diagnosis four years ago, which he kept private, and stories of his real-life generosity to other young creatives.

Many shared a video from The Tonight Show in 2018, where Black fans stood in front of a poster of Boseman's Black Panther character, King T'Challa, and shared what his performance meant to them. Waiting just behind the curtain was Boseman, who then surprised each fan.

This was amazing. @chadwickboseman surprises #BlackPanther fans while they say what the movie means to them.

"I can't express how much it means to me and the community and my family," said one man, who then repeated "my king, my king" when Boseman came out from behind the curtain.

"My son's childhood has been defined by Barack Obama and now Black Panther, so thank you," said a mother, who stood next to her son.

"As a creator and an entrepreneur of color, just seeing this movie made me realize that our stories need to be told," said another woman.

Several fans shared stories on Twitter of what Boseman's portrayal of Black Panther meant to their older Black fathers.

Chadwick and Black Panther mean so much to Black kids today, but let me tell you. When my then 70 y.o. father realized that his grandson's favorite superhero was Black, something in that man healed. And he can't have been the only one of his generation to experience that.

Right now I'm thinking about my 72 year-old father who'd never seen an MCU movie, but let me take him to Black Panther. How he lived through Jim Crow. How he said, at the end of the movie: "I never thought they'd put us onscreen like that." That's the impact of this body of work.

Others shared stories of their own children's response to the Marvel film and what Black Panther means to younger Black generations.

I keep thinking about my 3-year-old in his Black Panther costume. How he wore it almost every day when he got it, refused to take it off. The way he walked around saying “I’m the Black Panther.” How happy it made him. What Chadwick gave us was immeasurable. What an enormous loss.

black panther allowed the black community to finally feel represented on the big screen and showed young black children everywhere that anything is possible. Chadwick Boseman was an true inspiration, a legend. Rest In Power.

Chadwick Boseman gave the culture so much. With Black Panther especially. So many Black babies looked at his face on the big screen and saw themselves. They saw a hero. They saw who they aspired to be.

Chadwick Boseman is a big reason why our kids don't have to wonder about what a Black superhero is.

Another fan noted how Boseman fought for the Black Panther cast to speak in African accents, instead of American or British accents, to highlight that Wakanda had not been touched by Western colonial powers.

I will never forget how Chadwick Boseman fought for the Black Panther cast to play their characters with African accents. He understood what BP meant and went beyond what was asked of him and for that, he will always be our King T’Challa. Wakanda forever. #RIPChadBoseman

Civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, known for representing the families of Black people killed by police such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, wrote about Boseman's role as another civil rights legal figure.

"I was most appreciative of his incredible portrayal of my hero Thurgood Marshall," wrote Crump.

I'm shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of @ChadwickBoseman. While best known for Black Panther, I was most appreciative of his incredible portrayal of my hero, Thurgood Marshall. It goes to show that tomorrow isn't promised. Rest in power, Chadwick ✊🏾 https://t.co/GudJwi5UEI

Another fan quoted from a speech Marshall gave in 1992 when accepting the Philadelphia Liberty Medal. "We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust," they wrote.

"We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust." - Thurgood Marshall T'Challa was not the only hero Mr. Boseman played onscreen. #ThurgoodMarshall #ripchadwickboseman

The Major League Baseball Twitter account wrote that Boseman's performance as Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in the MLB, was "transcendent" and will "serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie's story to audiences for generations to come."

We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in “42” will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come.

Many noted that Boseman's powerful filmography — even more poignant when knowing many of the films were shot after his 2016 cancer diagnosis — focused on positive stories of Black heroes and legends.

Chadwick Boseman‘s filmography was defined by playing Black heroes. He played Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, which showed the best of what Black men have done in art, sports and politics. Then by playing Black Panther, he showed the best of Black imagination

Chadwick really suffered through all of that for *us.* Think of all the stories he helped tell. All the people he helped find hope. All the Black children for whom he could be a powerful reflection? Despite his own terminal pain. I am astonished by the weight of that sacrifice

Do yall realise #ChadwickBosemen intentionally selected great roles not only to inspire but to design an amazing legacy.T'challa,James Brown(fav) & Thurgood Marshall, icons in a time when black men are treated less than. If that isn't the definition of living idk what is.

chadwick wasn't just portraying a superhero, he was portraying our heroes. how the fuck you get the SAME PERSON to play jackie robinson AND james brown AND thurgood marshall AND black panther. HOW. i'm gutted at that man's strength and what we lose without it.

Chadwick Boseman played Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Floyd Little and T’Challa. Someday, someone will get to play him.

Other fans shared stories of meeting a real-life hero. Trevor Reece, a writer who worked at the Samuel French Film and Theatre Bookshop in Los Angeles, shared a story of Boseman coming into the store.

30 mins later, they are still chatting. Chadwick taking the time to give this guy advice, speaking to what’s it’s like to be a black man in this industry, how to navigate it. The actor thanks him for his time and continues looking for books.

Reece said Boseman bought a stack of books for a young Black actor.

He didn’t want thanks. He just wanted to make sure this young man was taken care of and had access to resources he would need to succeed. Chadwick Boseman was the King of Wakanda. He was James Brown and Jackie Robinson. But above all that, he was a good man.

Filmmaker Yasir Masood shared that he once met Boseman on a set, where Boseman called out the lack of diversity at the majority-white organization.

"I learned that day that you don’t have to yes ma’am or no sir for anyone," wrote Masood. "Your success isn’t dependent on making white people comfortable."

Last year, Boseman signed on to play the title role of Yasuke, a samurai warrior of African descent in Japan in the 1850s. According to IMDB, the film was still in preproduction.

Chadwick was set to play the African samurai Yasuke in a new movie too. It's like he knew he had to make every role count while he still had time. Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Black Panther. Dude told his agents "legends only please."

As one fan tweeted, "Dude told his agents 'legends only please.'"


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