Howard University is in mourning after actor and alumnus Chadwick Boseman, 43, died on Friday following a private, four-year fight with colon cancer. He rose to international fame after starring as T’Challa in the groundbreaking 2018 film “Black Panther,” becoming a beloved Black icon for fans, young and old.
“Boseman was a man of grace and humility. A deep thinker who had a deep passion for writing and uplifting his people. A staunch supporter of social justice, he did not shy away from using his voice in service to those without one,” wrote Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard’s president, in a letter to the campus community on Saturday. “We now know he was in a fight for his life yet continued creating magic for all of us without missing a beat. He lived a full life by the magnitude of his example.”
A 2000 graduate of Howard, Boseman returned to Howard in 2018 to deliver that year’s commencement speech, during which he described navigating the entertainment industry as a Black man. According to Frederick, Boseman intentionally spoke out against characters that belittled Black men and instead chose roles that “reflected the vision of his people that he wanted to see on screen.”
“The campus was electric as our own native son took the stage fresh off the blockbuster hit of Black Panther. In a sense, the real T’Challa had returned home to the real Wakanda – The Mecca,” wrote Frederick.“ … Boseman spoke fondly of his days at Howard, calling it ‘a magical place’ and saying, ‘when you have reached the Hilltop and you are deciding on next steps, you would rather find purpose than a career. Purpose is an essential element of you that crosses disciplines.’”
A memorial in tribute to Boseman has been set up on Howard’s campus, lined with pictures and flowers, reports WJLA news. And, on social media, other students and alumna, including Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, have expressed grief for the loss of Boseman. Additionally, a petition to rename Howard’s College of Fine Arts in honor of Boseman has garnered more than 14,400 signatures, as of Monday.