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Program The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress

John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity

The Kluge Prize recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact that advances understanding of the human experience.

Danielle Allen Hosts “Our Common Purpose”

Danielle Allen external link, winner of the Library’s 2020 Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, hosted a series of exciting conversations at the Library to explore the nation’s civic life and ways that people from all political beliefs and social causes can build a stronger, more resilient country.

The series, called “Our Common Purpose—A Campaign for Civic Strength at the Library of Congress,” consisted 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.”

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 last June. 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,” external link “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.” external link

The Kluge Prize recognizes the highest level of scholarly achievement and impact on public affairs and is considered one of the nation’s most prestigious award in the humanities and social sciences.

“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.”

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 external link

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

Danielle Allen at the 2017 National Book Festival external link

My New Year’s Resolution? I want to help renovate economic theory, Allen in The Washington Post external link

The Egalitarian, profile of Allen by Harvard Magazine. external link

View previous Kluge Prize recipients

About the Prize

Established with an endowment provided by the late John W. Kluge, the Kluge Prize recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact that advances understanding of the human experience.

Read about the Kluge Prize

Nomination and Selection

The Library of Congress invites nominations for the Kluge Prize from knowledgeable individuals in colleges, universities, government agencies, embassies, and research institutions across the globe, as well as from independent scholars and writers and from library curators. Nominations must be made in writing and explanatory documentation is helpful. Self-nominations are not accepted.

Read more about the Nomination and Selection Process


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