Born to an aspirational working-class family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to make a career as a hairdresser. Instead, she earned a law degree and used it to transform American society. For many years the only woman member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s legal team, Motley helped litigate Brown v. Board of Education, defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. During a second act, she broke barriers in politics by becoming the first woman elected borough president of Manhattan and the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate. In a third act that capped her career, she was the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary, becoming both a symbol of change in the American power structure and a part of it—an outsider within the system that she had long fought.