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Biographies Danielle Allen

2020 Kluge Prize Winner

Danielle Allen, a native of Takoma Park, Maryland, grew up in California and is a multi-talented academic, political theorist, author, and political columnist. She is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. Librarian Carla Hayden announced Allen as the Kluge Prize honoree in June 2020. She was awarded the Prize for her internationally recognized scholarship in political theory and her commitment to improving democratic practice and civics education. Her books include “Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality,” “Why Plato Wrote,” and a memoir about her cousin’s tragic experiences in the criminal justice system, “Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.” 

“At a time when trust in both civic and scientific institutions seems to be at a low point, Allen’s research, writing, and public engagement exemplify the societal value of careful scholarship and inclusive dialogue,” Hayden said. Her engagement with public policy issues, including societal responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrates the possibility and value of careful, judicious, and rational deliberation among individuals from multiple academic disciplines and vastly different political backgrounds.”

Allen hosted the series “Our Common Purpose—A Campaign for Civic Strength at the Library of Congress,” consisting of three public events in 2021. Each event was accompanied by a workshop for K-12 educators and public librarians, in which teachers from across the country could connect, explore, experiment and create new ways of making civic ideals come to life in their classrooms.

“We all know that this is a critical and urgent moment in our nation’s history,” Allen said. “We have faced crises as a nation before. We can continue to watch and worry and tweet at each other – or we can emerge stronger and more resilient by taking real action now to save our constitutional democracy.”

Now that the Our Common Purpose series has concluded, we have collected all of the event videos and related blog posts in one place. Click here and enjoy the whole series.

The poster for the campaign, created by artist Rodrigo Corral, showcases the shared iconography of American civic life as well as the Juneteenth flag, a symbol that is known to some, but unknown to many others. This illustrates the theme of invisibility – that not everyone’s American experience is broadly understood or apparent.

Corral, in his words, “set out to capture the mission of the Kluge Prize, as well as the brilliant Danielle Allen. The art celebrates so much of what the Kluge Prize and Danielle Allen stand for: togetherness, connectivity, action, and above all else the bonds we have in our communities no matter our differences.”


Get to know Danielle Allen through her appearances on stage and in print:

Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus, 2020 Randy L. & Melvin R. Berlin Family Lecture 

Danielle Allen on Our Declaration at a 2019 Kluge Center Author Salon. 

Danielle Allen at the 2017 National Book Festival

The Egalitarian, profile of Allen by Harvard Magazine. 

Selected Works at the Library of Congress

Videos from the Library of Congress