The Volokh Conspiracy

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The History of Wakanda

A historian explores the historical inspiration for Wakanda.


The Black Panther was among the first of my favorite comic heroes. The first comic book I had featuring T'Challa of Wakanda was Avengers #126. Given this I was understandably excited to take my daughter to the movie this weekend (and, like Kurt Loder, thought it was both an important film, and quite good).

In anticipation of the film, I reacquainted myself with some of the old storylines—particularly those developed by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. It's well-known how anxieties about nuclear radiation inspired much of the early Marvel pantheon, from Spider Man to the X-Men to the Hulk. What I had not realized, however, was the role such concerns—and associated geopolitical concerns—provided the inspiration for the Black Panther's homeland of Wakanda, including the idea that it was the source of a rare and important mineral resource. This is one of the things I learned from Ohio State University history professor Thomas McDow's essay on the African roots of the Wakanda story. Another was that the Black Panther first appeared (in the pages of The Fantastic Four) jsut a few months before the creation of the Black Panther Party in 1966. For those who want to know more about the history of the Black Panther's mythical home, McDow's short piece is worth a read.