'Our superhero': black British figures praise Chadwick Boseman

By Molly Blackall

Chadwick Boseman has been widely praised for breaking down cultural boundaries and inspiring a generation of young black people, following news of his untimely death.

The Black Panther star died at his home in the Los Angeles area aged 43, four years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He was best known for his role as the regal T’Challa in the Marvel cinematic universe, the franchise’s first high-profile black superhero.

Black Panther was considered a cultural milestone as the first mega-budget movie to have an African American director and a predominantly black cast.

Released at the height of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, which campaigned against the overlooking of black talent at the Academy Awards, the film defied racist opposition to become the first superhero movie to be nominated for a best picture Oscar and one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

The Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton dedicated his pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix to Boseman on Saturday afternoon.

Sharing a picture of himself doing the Wakanda salute from Black Panther, he said: “What he accomplished and the legacy he left is so incredible to me. He’s inspired a whole generation of young black men and women … Rest in power my friend.”

Lewis Hamilton makes the Wakanda salute
Lewis Hamilton makes the Wakanda salute. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Formula 1/Getty Images

Hamilton earlier described Boseman as “our superhero”.

“I’m so grateful I got to meet you brother,” he tweeted. “Thank you for all you have done for us. Rest in Power, you were the best of us and will never be forgotten. Love, light and prayers I send to you and your family.”

The ITV news anchor Charlene White said Boseman had made “little black kids believe that anything is possible” and thanked him for inspiring a generation. “You just never know what burden someone else is carrying, what battle they may be fighting. This really shocked me,” she said.

Boseman made his name in biopics exploring the lives of prominent black Americans, launching his career with his portrayal of the baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League baseball in the modern era. He went on to play icons including James Brown and the civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall.

Fellow actor Idris Elba posted on Instagram “Rest in peace Brother Chadwick. I’m saddened by this loss. Chadwick was a very thoughtful, hardworking man. Prideful and strong. He will be missed by the filmmaking community and fans of his solid work. My thoughts reach out to his family right now.”

The Noughts and Crosses author Malorie Blackman referenced Boseman’s groundbreaking role as King T’Challa: “Thank you for all the amazing films and good works. And thank you for Black Panther, which made the adult me smile and the child in me rejoice because – at last. Rest in eternal peace and power.”

The Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, said the news of Boseman’s death was devastating. “How very sad. Wonderful talent. Taken way too soon. What a trooper for continuing despite it all,” he tweeted.