Best known for his charismatic turn as King T’Challa in Marvel’s groundbreaking Black Panther, actor Chadwick Boseman’s passing shocked the world on Aug. 28, 2020. According to a statement shared by his family, the notoriously private star had been secretly undergoing chemotherapy treatments in between filming hits like Marshall and Da 5 Bloods. “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther,” the statement continued. “The family thanks you for your love and prayers and asks that you continue to respect their privacy at this difficult time.”
Tributes to Boseman poured in immediately, with what seemed like all of Hollywood praising the film star’s legacy, activism, and impact on the Black community. Politicians on both sides of the aisle took to social media to grieve Boseman’s passing and send their condolences to his family, too. Among the well wishers was vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who posted about her heartbreak upon learning the tragic news.
As an activist himself, it makes sense that Boseman’s death devastated those who have also dedicated their lives to the fight for social justice. But beyond mere acquaintances who admired each other’s work, Harris and Boseman had reportedly been friends for several years. Here, we take an inside look at Kamala Harris and Chadwick Boseman’s relationship.
Kamala Harris and Chadwick Bosemen attended the same university
According to the New York Post, Kamala Harris and Chadwick Boseman attended Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C. Harris double-majored in political science and economics, while Boseman received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in directing. This shared educational experience laid the groundwork for their bond, leading Harris to refer to Boseman as “more than just a blockbuster star,” according to People. She added, “We share being part of the legacy of Howard University, and it was a point of pride for each of us.”
Harris and Boseman have each spoken about the profound impact Howard University had on their respective careers. In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Boseman explained that he’d studied with future Black Panther comics writer Ta-Nehisi Coates at Howard, which is where he first discovered the character. “At a historically Black college, you’re getting turned on to all these things — the pantheon of our culture,” Boseman explained. “It’s John Coltraine, it’s James Baldwin. And it’s Black Panther.”
Similarly, Harris chose Howard to immerse herself in Black culture (via NPR). In her book, The Truths We Hold, she wrote, “When it came to college, I wanted to get off on the right foot. And what better place to do that … than at Thurgood Marshall’s alma mater?” Like Boseman, who immersed himself in theater on campus, Harris threw herself into student life, pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s oldest Black sorority, and attending protests against apartheid.
Kamala Harris and Chadwick Boseman had a heart for similar causes
It’s very telling that Chadwick Boseman’s last tweet prior to his death was a photo of him with California senator Kamala Harris, celebrating her selection as presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate. “YES @KamalaHarris!,” the caption reads. “#WhenWeAllVote #Vote2020.” The picture shows Boseman and Harris embracing at a 2018 fundraiser for Families Belong Together, a nonprofit with a mission of keeping immigrant families from being separated at the Mexico-United States border.
But Boseman’s tweet was far from the first time the star encouraged people to raise their voices and register to vote. During the 2018 midterm elections, Boseman joined March for Our Lives and We Stand United, along with celebs Chris Evans and Zoë Kravitz, for a hilarious and poignant PSA that mobilized people to get out and vote (per Teen Vogue).
Boseman’s desire to encourage Americans to vote — even as he faced his own personal battle with cancer — wasn’t lost on Harris. As reported by People, the vice presidential nominee discussed Boseman’s role as the Black Panther and his final tweet in a 20/20 special. “That his last tweet was to encourage people to exercise their right as citizens to vote, to participate in their democracy — born out of love of country — that’s so reflective of Chadwick,” Harris said.
Kamala Harris continues to honor Chadwick Boseman after his passing
While Chadwick Boseman may be gone, Kamala Harris is determined to keep his memory alive. During a recent fundraiser with member of The Avengers cast and the Russo brothers, Harris pointedly made mention of Boseman, discussing how she wished to “honor his life and the memory of him” (per Deadline). The self-professed Black Panther fan also brought up Boseman’s death later on in the evening.
“You know, actually where I am now, the studio from my D.C. headquarters, if you will, is at Howard University,” Harris shared, as reported by Deadline. “And that’s — Chadwick and I actually both attended Howard University and I think about him all the time, there are monuments and memorials set up on campus to him and he was a very dear friend.” She likened The Avengers’ fictional fight against Thanos to the election battle, noting that “honor and decency matters, whether you are saving the universe from Thanos or fighting for the soul of our nation.”
On Aug. 29, 2020, Harris once again paid tribute to her friend when she posted a clip of his 2018 commencement speech at their shared alma mater. “During his commencement speech at our beloved Howard, my friend Chadwick Boseman said, ‘press on with pride and press on with purpose,'” the tweet read. “In his name, let’s keep fighting.”
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