What Chadwick Boseman’s Brothers Taught Him, According To the Black Panther Himself

The loss of Chadwick Boseman still echoes around the world. The impact goes far beyond any role he portrayed — even Black Panther‘s T’Challa. In real life, Boseman found inspiration through his family — his brothers — who, he said, taught him how to forge his own path.

Chadwick Boseman kept his family life private

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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The Black Panther star died on Aug. 28 from colon cancer after a private four-year battle. Despite worldwide reach through the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the franchise’s first Black superhero, Boseman was a private man.

A 2019 profile by The New York Times revealed that the Anderson, South Carolina star grew up the youngest of three boys. His parents still live in the area where Boseman spent his childhood. There, he sang in church choir and attended youth group in the disciple where he was baptized.

“My grandmother would say that God is real, and it does feel that way. There’s things you can’t explain away as coincidence. Certain things are meant for you to do,” Boseman told Mr. Porter in 2018 about becoming an MCU hero.

His mother, Carolyn Boseman worked as a nurse while his father, Leroy Boseman held a position in a cotton factory.

“We weren’t rich, but I had what I needed,” Boseman said.

He added that his extended family is a large one. “When my grandmother died, she left 115 grandkids and great-grandkids. That was just one side,” he said.

Boseman’s interest in his ancestry may have led to ‘Black Panther’

The actor opened up to Ebony Magazine in 2018 about a personal journey to know more about his ancestry. After taking a DNA test, he traveled to Africa.

“Limba, Sierra Leone. Uraba, Nigeria. Jola, and Mende. In Sierra Leone,” Boseman said, recalling the places he wanted to visit. The trip, he said, was to learn more about who he was, and where his roots lie.

By the time Black Panther premiered — a role he said was “cosmic or whatever” via Mr. Porter — the actor bought more than 300 tickets for underprivileged children in Anderson.

Fox Carolina reported that 460 of Boseman’s family and friends watched the movie at the AmStar 14 theater on opening night. This is just one example of who Boseman was in real life — something his older brothers, Derrick and Kevin would likely attest to.

Boseman’s oldest brother reflects the actor’s faith

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Boseman’s brothers are five years apart. He explained the relationships to The NY Times saying, “I always wanted to dress better than my middle brother [Kevin], and I wanted to beat the older one [Derrick] in sports.”

A 2015 story showcased Derrick Boseman, a preacher in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He and his wife, Trista, began pastoring in 2012 with only six members. Within three years, they grew their congregation to over 60 members. Many of them were city youth.

“I prayed and I asked God to send me some members, and he sent children,” Derrick Boseman said. “We take them on trips. We’ve taken them to the King Center in Atlanta and we’ve taken them to the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. Sometimes we just go to the park and play basketball.”

He added: “We want to stop violence, addiction, teenage pregnancy, gangs.”

The middle Boseman brother taught Chadwick Boseman resolve

Boseman’s other brother, Kevin Boseman, worked with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe and toured with the stage production of The Lion King. Kevin inspired the Get On Up star to get into acting.

“He had the resolve to be, like, ‘No — I have something; I’m going to do it anyway, right or wrong’. And he was right,” Boseman said.

“There’s no way in the world I would have thought, ‘OK let me write this play’ if it wasn’t for him. Ultimately, I’m here because of what he did.”

In another profile via The Grio, Boseman said Kevin taught him “how to dream.”

“As I child, I would watch my brother Kevin Boseman look at recordings of Revelations and dream of the dancer he would one day become. I’m proud to say that Kevin danced with the second company for two years, and he danced with the first company for six years.”

During Boseman’s days at Howard University, he attempted to dance a number but forgot the steps while performing.

“This was one of my failures, but Ron Brown was gracious about my failure,” Boseman said.

“He encouraged my courage for trying. Years later, he asked little old me to contribute text to his work Order My Steps. I found something in myself because Ron trusted me again. He didn’t trust me to dance, but he did trust me with text. He taught me how to fail with grace.”

Boseman may not have become the dancer in the family — or the preacher — but he took the best pieces of his brothers and used them in his career, and his personal life.

Here’s what Boseman might’ve continued if he hadn’t gone into acting

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Long before his acting (or dancing) days, Boseman’s Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team from Anderson went to the national championship in Orlando, Florida.

That 1993 team didn’t see any future NBA players, but Boseman went on to become a star in his own right, as well as his teammate, NFL Pro-Bowler, Shaun Ellis.

During those basketball days, Boseman competed against at least one notable [future] NBA athlete.

“I played against Garnett in AAU. He probably would not remember it,” Boseman said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I didn’t match up with him, but I scored on him. I did an up and under on him.”

Thankfully, Boseman found another path — one that inspired a new generation — and it won’t soon be forgotten.