Students React to Death of Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick+Boseman+speaking+at+San+Diego+Comic+Con%27s+2017+rendition

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Chadwick Boseman speaking at San Diego Comic Con’s 2017 rendition

Serena Mack, Reporter

The death of Chadwick Boseman just a month ago caught the world by surprise, and for many of his African American fans the loss felt more significant than the death of a mere actor.

The 43-year-old star seemed to have captured the hearts of many, since he portrayed Jackie Robinson — the first African American in the MLB in the modern era — seven years ago. Additionally, the respect he garnered among Black Americans after his debut as Marvel’s “Black Panther” — Marvel’s first Black Superhero— was notable. According to Nathaniel Buckhalter, a University of Central Florida senior, it was beautiful to see a black man reach his level of success because, in the past, that’s been rare. He also admired Boseman’s craftsmanship, stating “I loved how versatile of an actor he was; he played Jackie Robinson and […] several other roles that were very different, and he did it so well.”

Diamond Chinnery, a 20-year-old sophomore at Valencia College, admitted to crying when she heard about Boseman’s death even though that was unusual for her. “I usually don’t take celebrity deaths personally,” Chinnery explained. When asked why Boseman’s death affected her, she said that Boseman represented more than movies. In addition to respecting the way he carried himself, he had given her a respectable black superhero — one her future children could have also.  Chinnery’s comment reflects the complaints of African American actors over the years regarding the limited roles afforded them. Some, like Boseman, have even noted Hollywood’s propensity towards typecasting black characters as ignorant and negative.

In a 2016 interview with “Nerd HQ”, Boseman admitted to rejecting roles daily for their flat, thoughtless, and stereotypical depictions by writers.  In his 2018 Howard University commencement speech, he recalled being fired from his first television job for simply questioning the traits of his clichéd character — despite having been congratulated on his initial performances. Boseman believed the producers labeled him as problematic for his desire to develop the character beyond its negative tropes.  When reflecting, Boseman expressed his gratitude for that experience, even though it limited his opportunities for a period. He asserted. “When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims […] with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of betrayal, a different path opened up for me: the path to my destiny.”

Later, when Boseman was selected to play “Black Panther”, Boseman recalled fighting for the Wakandan people to speak in African dialects, uninfluenced by European culture, despite the additional effort it required. In his interview with “Nerd HQ”, Boseman explained that it was only logical for Wakandans to keep their original language as a reflection of pride in their African culture, since they had never been colonized.

Boseman’s efforts to depict his characters fully and graciously did not go unnoticed by Diamond Patterson, a 21-year-old Valencia sophomore. She attributes her adoration of Boseman to his distinguished depictions of black men. She recalled, “Watching ‘Marshall’ made me want to see ‘42’. Everything he did radiated black excellence.” Adding, “I just love him!”

Christa Patterson also valued Boseman’s intentionality and commitment to portray black characters fairly. The 20-year-old Fine Arts major at the Seneff Honors College expressed respect for the actor’s craftsmanship, sophistication, and humility. She pronounced, “He was a bit of a role model. He reminded people of what they could be and what they could do.”