Any analysis of the American black experience demands close attention to both the political and the personal, and this extraordinary memoir by Williams--the country's first African- American trial lawyer--offers just that, as well as making a noteworthy contribution to recent American legal history. Williams--a child of Depression-era N.Y.C.--tells how youthful visits to the segregated South shaped her passion for justice, while ambitious parents shaped her belief that she need not submit to injustice. Not surprisingly, she chose a career in social work, becoming a Children's Court probation officer: In her first major case, she contended with the political pressures of placing the children of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Soon weary of bureaucratic manipulations, and in order ``to center my life,'' Williams pursued a legal career, managing to build a practice in poverty law--this at a time when there ``were so few black lawyers'' (not to mention black women lawyers) that there ``wasn't any effort to count them.'' In the early 70's, the author took on her most important case, defending her niece, Assata Shakur, ``leader'' of the Black Liberation Army. It's obvious from Williams's discussion of this case that she loves legal work: Her words glow with the fire and intensity of the period. With the legal and the political inextricably linked during Shakur's trials, the author shows how frustrating, and often futile, defending the poor and other non- mainstream groups can be--especially, in her case, while burdened with finding a balance between concerned aunt and objective legal strategist. Moreover, after Shakur's escape, Williams had to contend with wiretaps, character assassination, and other aspects of the FBI's counterintelligence program. Now semiretired, she's reached the same conclusion ``that Assata reached a long time ago: direct action by the people is the only hope for change.'' A necessary companion to Assata Shakur's Assata (1987)--and a boon to anyone seeking to understand the force of law from a lawyer's perspective.