The legacy of Chadwick Boseman

On Aug. 28, at the age of forty-three, actor Chadwick Boseman passed away. He kept his four-year battle with colon cancer out of media attention. Instead, Boseman continued to film movies and work throughout the industry.

For me, Boseman will always be remembered for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson. The 2013 biopic 42 based on the athletic career of Major League Baseball’s first African American player Jackie Robinson is an honorable testament to one of sport’s most important historical athletes.

This was the film that turned me on to Boseman. As a child raised in a predominantly baseball-oriented family, you’re always told of the legacy of Jackie Robinson. 

Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brookly Dodgers at the time, broke baseball’s colour barrier in 1947 and signed Robinson to a major league contract.

Boseman portrays Robinson’s struggles and successes with respect and passion — he convincingly brings the role to life. As a fourteen-year-old who showed up about sixty years too late to Robinson’s playing career, the imagery in this film has yet to fade from my mind.

Biopics are not always easy to accomplish. It takes time and effort to convince the audience that your leading actor really is who they say they are—anyone who’s seen Netflix’s The Dirt knows exactly what I’m talking about.

But the second Boseman laces up his cleats, there’s not a single doubt in your mind that Robinson is taking the field.

Boseman was also the star of Marvel’s critically acclaimed hit Black Panther. According to the actor, the role of T’Challa was the “honour of his career.”

Black Panther was the first film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature an African American actor as its main protagonist.

It quickly garnered a massive following. Not only was it an entertaining spectacle, it was a high-budget film that handled issues of being of African descent.

Boseman has also starred in fan favourites such as Message from the King, Draft Day as well as two Avengers films. 

Upon hearing the news, my father — a diehard Cleveland Browns fan — promptly called me to let me know that first overall pick Vontae Mack had passed.

As a naive university student with improbable — debatably laughable — aspirations, it’s sometimes hard to accept that celebrities are not indestructible — especially young, working actors. Passively, you assume they are the exceptions; actors, puppies and Michael Jordan. 

But when a distinguished, respectable actor such as Boseman spontaneously passes to the public eye, it’s heart-wrenchingly difficult to accept that viscous, unfair things can happen to these people.

It’s hard to accept that we’ll never see Jackie Robinson swiping a bag again. That we’ll never see T’Challa bantering with his younger sister, Shuri.

The funny thing about celebrities—especially actors and athletes–is that even though we may never meet them, they somehow feel like family. When mom’s out for a business dinner and you’re having a rough day, there’s no one more comforting to turn to than a movie.

Although these actors aren’t always aware of it, they affect their viewers a great deal—some more positively than others. They nudge their way into your inner subconscious as an idea of comfort, strength and power.

And that’s exactly who Chadwick Boseman was to his audience. He was not only a talented actor, but a man who projected vigor and perseverance into the lives of those around him—as well as his fans—and that could not have translated better to the big screen.

Boseman’s legacy lives on through his work. His portrayals of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall will serve as artistic documentation of the lives of influential historical figures.

Boseman’s T’Challa will forever be a staple of Black Pride and demonstrate that high budget films with predominantly African-American casts can succeed.

Remember Chadwick Boseman with compassion and a warm heart. Allow the essence of his legacy to fill you with comfort and strength.

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