Historian Randall Woods Publishes New Biography on John Quincy Adams

Distinguished Professor Randall Woods
Russell Cothren

Distinguished Professor Randall Woods

Randall Woods, a Distinguished Professor of history at the U of A, has published a new biography, John Quincy Adams: A Man for the Whole People. Woods describes the biography, which he spent eight years working on, as one-third travelogue, one-third family history and one-third political-diplomatic history. His underlying goal was "to make the life and times of John Quincy Adams come alive."

Despite being the sixth president of the United States, Woods felt Adams has not gotten his due, overshadowed by his more famous mother, Abigail, who was one of the brightest and most articulate women in revolutionary America, and his father, John, who was a founding father and the second president of the United States.

In addition to being an occupant of the White House, Adams was also secretary of state, a U.S. senator and a member of both the Massachusetts General Assembly and the House of Representatives. But Quincy Adams was much more than a politician and a diplomat. "He was the best traveled American of his era," Woods added. "He spoke or wrote six languages and was the father of the Smithsonian. During his stint in the House, J.Q.A. became the best known and most effective critic of slavery in the nation. Slave-holding senator Henry Wise of Virginia described him as 'the acutest, the astutist, the archest enemy of Southern slavery that ever existed.'"

Woods said that prior to writing the biography, he was mostly aware of Adams' contribution to American politics and diplomacy. But while researching Adam's extraordinary life, which stretched from the Revolutionary War to the Mexican-American War, he was surprised by the ferocity of Adams' opposition to slavery. "Despite being an advocate for westward expansion, he was opposed to the annexation of Texas," Woods said, because he knew it would enter the union as a slave state. Woods was also surprised by the degree of tragedy in Adams personal life. Two of his brothers died of alcoholism as well as one of his sons, while another died by suicide.

The book is Woods' 13th and follows more recent biographies of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and J. William Fulbright. He has been with the U of A since 1971 and is the John A. Cooper Distinguished Professor of History.

Advance praise for John Quincy Adams:

"Intensively readable… A tremendous history lesson through the life of this insuppressible voice for liberty and justice."
Kirkus, starred review

"Beautifully written biographies are rare gems, and Randall Woods's John Quincy Adams is truly one of the most exquisite. In this contemporary moment when our democracy feels so fragile, and when the question of what defines us a nation—what will make us the most egalitarian, the most just—feels so pressing, this vibrant and rich look at the life of a man who was at the very center of an earlier so-similar moment in our nation's past is sobering, hopeful and needed."
Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy

"This splendid biography is a genuine 'Life and Times' story of a remarkable American who served his country for more than a half century as diplomat, senator, secretary of state, president, public intellectual and in a unique post-presidential career as gadfly of the slave power in Congress. Randall Woods skillfully interweaves the narrative of these events with intimate accounts of Adams' personal and family life in a warmly human manner."
James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era



Randall Woods, Distinguished Professor
Department of History
479-575-5097, rwoods@uark.edu

Hardin Young, assistant director of research communications
University Relations
479-575-6850, hyoung@uark.edu


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