How Chadwick Boseman Embodies Black Male Dignity

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BOSEMAN, 41, WAS BORN AND RAISED in the manufacturing hub of Anderson, S.C., the youngest of three boys. His mother, Carolyn, had a job as a nurse and the unflappable temperament to match. (“If I had to put anyone on the free throw line, it’s her.”) His father, Leroy, worked for an agricultural conglomerate and had a side business as an upholsterer. “I saw him work a lot of third shifts, a lot of night shifts,” Boseman said. “Whenever I work a particularly hard week, I think of him.”

His closest role models were his two brothers: Derrick, the eldest, now a preacher in Tennessee; and Kevin in the middle, a dancer who has performed with the Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey troupes and toured with the stage adaptation of “The Lion King.”

Both brothers, each five years apart from the next, were allies and rivals (“I always wanted to dress better than my middle brother, and I wanted to beat the older one in sports”), but it was Kevin who foreshadowed Chadwick’s life in the arts.

In Anderson in the 1980s, Boseman said, there was little context for a boy who dreamed of becoming a dancer, let alone a black one. “It was like, ‘What is that?’” he said of his parents’ initial reaction to his brother’s chosen field. (A spokesman for the actor declined to make Kevin available for an interview.) “It wasn’t something that my family understood.”

But Kevin persisted and, ultimately, excelled. In time, the folks came around, helping him get into the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in nearby Greenville.

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

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