Many people remember Marion Barry as the philandering drug-addled mayor, the one who famously uttered the phrase “bitch set me up” as he was arrested during an FBI sting in 1990. He’s the poster boy for corruption, a pariah who will never be forgiven for bringing shame on the nation’s capital.

Yet to others, Marion Barry is a folk hero. Hailed as a civil rights champion and defender of the poor, he’s the man who transformed Washington D.C. from a sleepy southern town into a political stronghold of Black America. Barry’s soaring achievements, catastrophic failures and phoenix-like rebirths have made him a symbol of mythic indestructibility.

From the Mississippi cotton fields to the corridors of power, Barry has weathered drug and alcohol addiction, cancer, 4 marriages, jail time, and political extinction to dominate Washington D.C. city politics for more than 40 years.

With unprecedented access, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry tells the continuing saga of this despised, beloved, and resilient politician. It’s a potent story of race, power, sex, and drugs; the tale of a complex and contradictory man who is the star of one of the most fascinating and bizarre chapters of American politics.