Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic actor known for portraying barrier-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson, music icon James Brown, and Marvel superhero T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 43.
His family confirmed the news Friday evening in a statement posted to Twitter, revealing that Boseman was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016 and quietly battled it for years as it progressed to stage IV.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement said. “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.”
— Chadwick Boseman (@chadwickboseman) August 29, 2020
The statement added, “It was the honor of his career to bring T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side.”
Born and raised in South Carolina, Boseman studied directing at Howard University and soon built his acting career playing historic Black icons like Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, Brown in Get on Up, and Robinson in 42. (The news of his death comes on the same day that Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, when all players wear Robinson’s number, 42. MLB paid tribute to Boseman on Twitter, writing, “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.”)
But Boseman was perhaps best known for his history-making role as T’Challa, the first Black superhero to headline a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The regal king of the fictional nation of Wakanda made his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, before starring in 2018’s Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler. With its predominantly Black cast and powerful central performance by Boseman, Black Panther was a watershed moment for pop culture, breaking box office records and becoming the first superhero film to ever earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.