I stand here today knowing that my Howard University education prepared me to play Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and T’Challa.”

Credit: Rick Rowell via Getty

A Howard University alumnus has been selected by The Walt Disney Company for a very prestigious honor at its upcoming D23 Expo presented by Visa. Chadwick Boseman will be one of fourteen Disney Legends honored for their lasting contributions to DIsney’s iconic legacy. Most known for his celebrated role as the Black Panther, Boseman will be honored posthumously after passing away from colon cancer in August 2020. However, thanks to this award he will formally go down in history as one of the company’s most influential figures of all times. 

The D23 Expo has served as Disney’s largest and most comprehensive fan experience in the world since 2009. The sold-out Expo takes place September 9, 10, and 11 and is packed with events at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland. Attendees can expect to enjoy conversations and special celebrity appearances tied to Disney’s parks and brands (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic).

Disney’s influence stretches over nearly 100 years, and this year’s D23 Expo will be centered around a Disney100 campaign. The “D” in D23 stands for Disney, while the “23” acknowledges when founder Walt Disney established the company in 1923. “For nearly a century, Disney has been entertaining and inspiring people around the world,” said Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “I can’t wait to give fans a first look at what we have in store for our hundredth anniversary, and how we’re using this occasion to celebrate all the fans and families who have welcomed Disney into their lives.”

Chadwick Boseman (L) and Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick (R) | Source: Seattle Medium

The D23 Expo will begin with a bang, featuring an opening ceremony that puts the 35th Anniversary of the Disney Legends Awards front and center. The ceremony will be live streamed, and will include special guests and surprises. For one, fans can appreciate special musical performances from cast members of Disney Broadway productions like Aladdin and The Lion King. In addition to Boseman, the Disney Legend honorees will include familiar faces like Anthony Anderson, a recent fellow graduate of Howard University. Anderson’s black-ish co-star Tracee Ellis Ross will also be honored, as well as Rob’t Coltrin, Patrick Dempsey, Robert Price “Bob” Foster, Jonathan Groff, Don Hahn, Josh Gad, Doris Hardoon, Idina Menzel, Chris Montan, and Ellen Pompeo. Emmy® Award winner and key broadcast journalist winner Tamron Hall will host the award ceremony.

According to the Walt Disney Archives, each Disney Legend embodies three special elements, each of which have representations on their award: “The Spiral—stands for imagination, the power of an idea. The Hand—holds the gifts of skill, discipline and craftsmanship. The Wand and the Star—represent magic: the spark that is ignited when imagination and skill combine to create a new dream.” Throughout his life, Chadwick Boseman demonstrated that he always had the essence that Disney Legends are made of.

During his 42 years on earth, Boseman built the career of a lifetime. He first got started with small roles in Law & Order, All My Children, CSI: NY, and ER. By 2008 he booked his first recurring role on Lincoln Heights, then on Persons Unknown. Yet his first big break came in 2013 when he played the role of Jackie Robinson in 42. His success in that role led him to a secure blockbuster biopic –  playing James Brown in the hit film Get On Up

Perhaps the most defining role of his career though, was his dual role of T’Challa and The Black Panther. As a key member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), he first appeared in Captain America: Civil War.  However when Black Panther came out, it truly made history. The film became the first superhero movie nominated for an Oscar in Best Picture, won three Oscars total, and has since reached beyond $10 billion at the global box office since its release. He went on to play the role several more times, including in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and Avengers: Endgame in 2019. 

However before he became the iconic Black Panther, Boseman chose to develop his talents at Howard University. The South Carolina native graduated from the Washington, D.C. HBCU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.  As he accomplished feat after feat as an actor, writer and director post-graduation, he gained international recognition. However, he never forgot his roots. In 2018 returned to his alma mater as a commencement speaker and shared words that will last a lifetime. “I stand here today knowing that my Howard University education prepared me to play Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and T’Challa,” he said. He also shared how the personal standards he developed at the HBCU taught him to hold his head high and stand in integrity. “Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it,” Bosemen told the students. “Sometimes you need to feel the pain and the sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.” During his visit, the icon received an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters.

A year after his passing, Boseman was honored by Howard University tremendously. In 2021 the HBCU unveiled the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, as a nod both to him and his field of study. To sweeten the deal in a way that even benefited Howard students, iconic actress Phylicia Rashad was signed on as Dean. “Chad was a very proud Bison — both Howard and Ms. Rashad played integral roles in his journey as an artist,” said his widow Simone Ledward Boseman. “The re-establishment of the College of Fine Arts brings this part of his story full-circle and ensures that his legacy will continue to inspire young storytellers for years to come.”

Over his lifetime, Boseman has won accolades from the Golden Globe Awards, People’s Choice Awards, BET Awards, Hollywood Black Film Festival, African-American Film Critics Association, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. According to CinemaBlend, he posthumously received honors such as Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama at the 78th Golden Globe Awards; NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor and Outstanding Ensemble for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; an NAACP Outstanding Supporting Actor award for Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and even Outstanding Actor from the Black Reel Awards. He even received an Emmy nomination for his work in the Disney+ animated series What If…?, which was his last time playing T’Challa and the Black Panther. 

Throughout it all, Boseman has made a lasting impact. “Boseman reminds us that the quality of life is not measured in time, but rather it is measured in how well we live it and what we prioritized,” said outgoing Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “He prioritized his wife, his family, his friends, his craft, and loving others. The characters he portrayed will be celebrated but his greatest gift to us was himself.” 

Although the D23 Expo is already sold out, many of the events, including the Disney Legends Awards, will be livestreamed on D23Expo.com.


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