10 Things About The Life And Legacy Of Howard University Alumnus Chadwick Boseman

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Written by Ann Brown
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10 Things About The Life And Legacy Of Howard University Alumnus Chadwick Boseman Photo: Chadwick Boseman arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

In his 43 years, actor Chadwick Boseman did something very few accomplish in Hollywood — he made an indelible mark not only on the movie industry but the world. His watershed role was popular and historic. As the lead in “Black Panther”, he starred as the world’s first African superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). “Black Panther” was also the first superhero film to be nominated for an Oscar for best picture. 

Boseman died in August.

Here are 10 this about the life and legacy of Howard University alumnus Chadwick Boseman.

1. Africa in his DNA

Perhaps due to Boseman playing an African superhero, many fans thought he was from Africa. He hails from Anderson, South Carolina, born to African-American parents. However, Bosemen did share the results of his DNA with AfricanAncestry.com. His ancestors were Krio people from Sierra Leone, Limba people from Sierra Leone, and Yoruba people from Nigeria.

2. Real life

Boseman graduated in 1995 from T. L. Hanna High School, where he played on the basketball team. Besides sports, Bosemen was already into acting as a teenager. In his junior year, he wrote his first play, “Crossroads,”and staged it at the school after a classmate was shot and killed.

At the start of his professional acting career, Boseman lived in Brooklyn and worked as the drama instructor in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his film acting career.

3. A Howard man

Boseman attended Howard University, graduating in 2000 with a bachelor of fine arts in directing.

One of his teachers was actress Phylicia Rashad, who became a mentor. She helped raise funds so that Boseman and some classmates could attend the Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in England, to which they had been accepted. Denzel Washington was among those who helped pay for the students’ studies, CNBC reported.

Boseman later recalled the story in an interview.

“Many of you already know the story that Mr. Washington, when asked by Phylicia Rashad to join her in assisting nine theater students from Howard University who had been accepted to a summer acting program at the British Academy of Dramatic Acting in Oxford, gracefully and privately agreed to contribute,” Boseman said in June 2019.

“As fate would have it, I was one of the students that he paid for,” he continued. “Imagine receiving the letter that your tuition for that summer was paid for and that your benefactor was none other than the dopest actor on the planet.”

“There is no ‘Black Panther’ without Denzel Washington,” Boseman said.

He reminisced about coming face-to-face with Washington on the Oscars red carpet in 2019. “It was a fun conversation. The first thing he said was, ‘You owe me money! I came to collect!’” Boseman told ABC’s Michael Strahan. “It was so deep, I can’t even go into it right now. We sort of just talked about what’s been happening, what’s about to happen.”

After news of Boseman’s death, Washington remembered him as a “gentle soul,” People reported.

“He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career,” Washington said in a statement following Boseman’s death. “God bless Chadwick Boseman.”

4. Screen time

Boseman landed his first major role as a series regular on “Persons Unknown” in 2010. But his breakthrough performance came as groundbreaking baseball player Jackie Robinson in the biographical film “42” (2013). After this, Boseman was in a string of films starring as historical figures — in “Get on Up” (2014) as singer James Brown and “Marshall” (2017) as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

5. Marvel firsts

Boseman achieved international fame for playing superhero Black Panther. He appeared in four Marvel films, including an eponymous 2018 film that earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, South Hampton Arts Center reported. 

He was the first Black actor to headline a Marvel film.

6. Turned down ‘thug role’

Boseman said he was fired from a popular TV show because he refused to play a “thug.” The role was that of Reggie Montgomery on the iconic soap opera “All My Children.” Boseman starred in the role for about a week in 2003, but was fired for speaking up about the character’s “controversial and problematic thug persona,” The Wrap reported. 

“It’s one of those things where you get a role, and you don’t really know,” he said. “When I got it, I was like, ‘This is not part of my manifesto. This is not a part of what I want to do. How can I make it work?’ Because, with a soap opera, you don’t know the full scope of what’s gonna happen…Because of that, there’s possibly room for me to adjust this and change it and make it so it’s stereotypical on the page, but not on the screen.”

He added, “I remember going home and thinking, ‘Do I say something to them about this? Do I just do it?’ And I couldn’t do it. I had to voice my opinions and put my stamp on it.”

So he talked to the producers, who really weren’t into Boseman’s suggestions — or so they made it seem, BET reported.

“They said, ‘You are too much trouble,’ but they took my suggestions, or some of them,” he said. “And for me, honestly, that’s what this is about.”

7. Colon cancer

In 2016, Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer, a rising cause of death in Black America. He kept his condition private but after a four-year battle, he died on Aug. 28, 2020 from complications related to the illness.

It was recently revealed Boseman died without a will.

8. Married longtime love

Chadwick Boseman married his longtime love Taylor Simone Ledward in the months before his death.

Ledward  is a trained singer who graduated from California State Polytechnic University Pomona in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in music industry studies.

While it is not clear how the couple met, they were first spotted by paparazzi in 2015 at Los Angeles International Airport, Yahoo reported.

The couple reportedly got engaged in October 2019 in Malibu, California, Today reported.

9. Most-liked tweet

A tweet honoring Boseman became the most-liked Twitter post ever, CNET reported.

“A tribute fit for a king,” was sent from Boseman’s Twitter account announcing the actor’s death on Aug. 29. It praised his perseverance and fighting spirit, and became the most-liked tweet ever.

The record-breaking tweet includes a black and white photo of a smiling Boseman with the hashtag “#WakandaForever.” Along with the picture is a statement from Boseman’s family sharing that he’d passed away after fighting colon cancer for four years. 

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement read. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more — all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.” 

The day of the tweet’s posting, it had been liked 5.9 million times within a few hours. (It currently has 7.6 million likes.)

The previous most-liked tweet was sent in August 2017 by former President Barack Obama that read, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.” That tweet has garnered 4.3 million likes, CNET reported.

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10. Last closeups

Even after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, Boseman continued to act while he was undergoing treatment. One of his last films was Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” released this year on Netflix. The film is about a group of Black veterans (including Delroy Lindo and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who return to Vietnam to bury the remains of their squad leader, Stormin’ Norman (Boseman), who’s seen in flashbacks, USA Today reported. 

Boseman’s final film, the Netflix adaptation of the renowned play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” is set for a December release. It stars Boseman and Oscar winner Viola Davis, The New York Times reported.