Actor Chadwick Boseman’s career was defined by his portrayal of Black legends — both real and fictional — on screen, 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.
“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.
Others shared stories of their own children’s response to the Marvel film and what Black Panther means to younger Black generations.
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 was not touched by Western colonial powers.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Other fans shared stories of meeting a real-life hero. Trevor Reece, a writer who worked at the Samuel French Film and Theater Bookshop in Los Angeles, shared a story of Boseman coming into the store.
Reece said Boseman bought a stack of books for a young Black actor.
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 pre-production.
As one fan tweeted, “Dude told his agents ‘legends only please.'”