The world is still collectively grieving the untimely death of actor Chadwick Boseman, who passed away over the weekend after an undisclosed four-year battle with colon cancer.
In the days since his death, fans and peers alike have paid homage to the 43-year-old Black Panther star’s portrayals of iconic Black history figures such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall—and for embodying a similarly inspirational figure himself off-screen.
In a Marvel-made tribute video, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler noted the many qualities Chadwick Boseman shared with the character he portrayed in the blockbuster film. Those qualities are on full display in the many videos that have resurfaced on social media, featuring Boseman speaking at events and in interviews. Here are some of the most striking speeches the deeply missed performer uttered in public over the last few years, reminding us that while T’Challa was a fictional hero, the man behind the mask was a real-life hero to many.
2019 SAG Awards acceptance speech
As the Black Panther cast accepted an ensemble award, Boseman talked about the movie’s impact on the film industry and creating space for Black talent. “To be young, gifted, and Black . . . We know what it’s like to be told that there’s not a screen for you to be featured on,” he said, pinpointing a feeling familiar to Black creatives across many industries. “We knew we had something special that we wanted to give the world.”
2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards acceptance speech
After the release of Black Panther, the spotlight followed Boseman closely, but he made sure to shine it back on his community. “Receiving an award for playing a superhero is amazing, but it’s even greater to acknowledge the heroes that we have in real life,” Boseman said as he relinquished his “Best Hero” award to James Shaw Jr., who saved lives when he fought off a gunman in an Antioch, Tennessee, Waffle House. If there was any doubt about Boseman’s commitment to spreading awareness of real-life Black heroes from his roles in movies like Get On Up and 42, this speech would have laid them to rest.
2018 Howard University commencement speech
Some students have jokingly called Howard University, Boseman’s alma mater, “Wakanda University,” after the fictional land at the heart of Black Panther. In a commencement speech at the historically Black university, Boseman implored graduates to fulfill their life’s purpose. “Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he said, adding later on, “As you commence to your paths, press on with pride and press on with purpose.”
2018 SiriusXM interview
Black Panther didn’t just smash box office records—it was a cultural phenomenon. Boseman’s performance enthralled and inspired fans of all ages. In an interview with SiriusXM, he spoke about two children with cancer who spent their last days of life anticipating the film. Between reminiscing about his childhood and holding back tears, Chadwick Boseman said about kids looking up to him, “It means a lot.” At the time, nobody outside of Boseman’s inner circle knew that he was battling cancer himself, which added a hidden layer to his interaction with those children.
2018 ‘ABC Nightline’ interview
When asked how the Black Panther stacked up against real Black men who changed history, Boseman replied, “I certainly wouldn’t be here if it were not for those men that I portrayed, because of what they did in their lives, and the door that it opened for me.” Although he may be gone from us now, Boseman’s performance as King T’Challa stands poised to embolden generations to come, much as the lives of Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall did for him.