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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.

2020 Recipient

  • 2020 Kluge Prize recipient Danielle Allen. Photo by Laura Rose.

    Danielle Allen

    Meet Danielle Allen, 2020 Kluge Prize Recipient

    The John W. Kluge Center congratulates Danielle Allen on receiving the 2020 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity. We look forward to collaborating with Dr. Allen to bring her expertise on justice, citizenship, and democracy into conversation with all Americans.

    Read the press release announcing Allen's selection here.

    Allen is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, an analysis that reinvigorates public understanding of the founding document of the United States.

    Her 2017 memoir, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., examines the way that racism in the justice system and mass incarceration impacted her own family. In it, she made a call for equality before the law and civic participation that animates all of her work.

    Allen was a 2001 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient for her ability to combine “the classicist’s careful attention to texts and language with the political theorist’s sophisticated and informed engagement.”

    She is also the principal investigator of the Democratic Knowledge Project, a K-16 educational platform designed to identify and disseminate the knowledge and capacities required for democratic citizenship. Allen is a frequent public lecturer and regular guest on public radio affiliates to discuss issues of citizenship, as well as a contributing columnist for The Washington Post. Recently, she has spearheaded a Safra Center initiative about how America should respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Join the Kluge Center for a virtual event: Danielle Allen Takes on the Hard Questions on Democracy and Public Life, held on July 2, 2020, at 7pm. Click here to register for free tickets and watch the event on the Library's YouTube channel here.

    Allen has received extensive praise from fellow scholars.

    Toyin Falola, Professor of African Studies at the University of Texas and a member of the Kluge Center Scholars Council, said:

    An original thinker, Danielle Allen is a respected political philosopher whose works on democracy, citizenship, and justice have connected us to foundational ideals. She is a bold and provocative scholar who has never been satisfied with traditional knowledge. She digs deeper, and that is how she has been able to write on issues that range from political philosophy to education, and social justice. A path-breaking historian and analyst, her works on political philosophy [have] appealed to readers and thinkers from across ideological divides, and the moral vision she offers for America—equality and equity across board—make her deserving of this prize.

    Ruth R. Faden, Professor of Biomedical Ethics at Johns Hopkins University and member of the Scholars Council, said about Allen:

    At a time when increasing polarization seems to be a defining characteristic of our public life, and foundations of our democracy are increasingly threatened, the importance of Professor Allen’s work on democratic theory and the history of political thought looms large. It is not just Professor Allen’s scholarship that makes her a worthy candidate, it is also her commitment to moving from democracy scholarship to democracy preservation (e.g. the Democratic Knowledge Project).

    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

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

    The Egalitarian, profile of Allen by Harvard Magazine.

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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