Museum News

Statement on the Passing of Actor Chadwick Boseman

September 1, 2020
Actor Chadwick Boseman Photo courtesy of Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Spencer Crew, interim director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, released the following statement today, Tuesday, Sep. 1, on the death of actor Chadwick Boseman. 

It is with deep sadness that we at the National Museum of African American History and Culture mourn the passing of acclaimed actor Chadwick Boseman.

Famous for bringing history to life with roles portraying iconic African Americans, Boseman had the gifts and the drive that would take him from the halls of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the British American Drama Academy in London to movie screens around the world. We at the museum remember Boseman not only for his remarkable performances but as a dear friend. His presence, ever so brief, inspired people of all ages to have a deeper respect for history and to imagine themselves in a new light.

A native of Anderson, South Carolina, the son of a textile worker and a nurse, Boseman graduated from Howard University in 2000 where he studied under celebrated actor and Howard graduate Phylicia Rashad. He made film history portraying many of America’s history makers—from major league baseball great Jackie Robinson to soul singer James Brown. But he found stardom with his role as T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, adding important representation to the Marvel Universe and the superhero film genre.

His four-year battle with cancer is a testament to how much of a superhero he truly was.  Boseman filmed major Hollywood productions between cancer treatments and doctors’ visits, all the while continuing to spark a sense of hope in the hearts of millions around the world.

“Chadwick Boseman had wide-ranging gifts, an uncanny ability to hit us hard in many different types of roles,” said Rhea L. Combs, the museum’s curator of photography and film. “We all fell in love with him as T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther. He dazzled us in Get on Up as the dynamic James Brown. Marshall allowed him to play fellow Howard University graduate and first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and we were moved by the power of that searing civil rights story.”

“In the roles of the historical figures, he didn’t necessarily resemble them, but he channeled them,” Combs continued. “It was that energy that we all resonated with. And it is that energy we will miss. He left an indelible impression on so many, across the world—young and old, men, women and children. The body of work, and the life he lived, show us what it means to live life with purpose, to pull strength from the past while living your destiny. We thank Chadwick Boseman for this. And so much more.”

In 2018, the museum acquired several objects from the record-breaking film Black Panther, including the Black Panther costume worn by Boseman.

We will forever thank him for his generosity. Our hearts go out to his wife Taylor Simone Ledward, his family and to all who love him as much as we do.


About the National Museum of African American History and Culture  
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000 square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.

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Media Contact(s): 

Jermaine House    (202) 633-9495;
Jason Spear          (202) 633-9904;

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.