Chadwick Boseman, who found fame as the star of the groundbreaking film “Black Panther” and who also portrayed pioneering Black figures such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, died on Friday. He was 43.
A statement posted on Mr. Boseman’s Instagram account said he had learned in 2016 that he had Stage 3 colon cancer, which had progressed to Stage 4. It said he died in his home, with his wife and family by his side.
“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.”
News of Mr. Boseman’s death elicited shock and grief among many prominent figures in the arts and civic life. Martin Luther King III, a human rights activist and the eldest son of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said that Mr. Boseman had “brought history to life on the silver screen” in his portrayals of Black leaders.
Oprah Winfrey wrote on Twitter that Mr. Boseman was “a gentle gifted SOUL.”
“Showing us all that Greatness in between surgeries and chemo,” she wrote. “The courage, the strength, the Power it takes to do that. This is what Dignity looks like.”
Mr. Boseman portrayed the first Black player in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, in “42” (2013); the sizzling soul singer James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014); and the first Black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, in “Marshall” (2017).
But he was best known for his role as T’Challa, or the Black Panther, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda in the 2018 Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther.”
That film was a cultural touchstone. It was the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist; the first to star a primarily Black cast; and in Ryan Coogler, the first to employ a Black writer and director.
Black Panther” represented a moment of hope, pride and empowerment for African-American moviegoers, many of whom planned special outings to see it and came dressed in African-inspired clothing and accessories.
Wakanda was powered by a mystery metal, vibranium, and had evaded the historical traumas endured by much of the rest of Africa, freeing it from the ravages of colonialism and postcolonialism. The phrase “Wakanda forever” became a hashtag and rallying cry.
The statement on Mr. Boseman’s Instagram account said it was “the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in ‘Black Panther.’”