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Common Read: 2021-2022 Our Declaration: About the Author

About the Author

Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen (b. 1971)

Danielle Allen was born in Takoma Park, Maryland, the daughter of political scientist William B. Allen. She is a mixed-race woman descended from slaves who grew up listening to stories about her Baptist preacher grandfather who helped found the first NAACP chapter in north Florida, and the exploits of her suffragette great-grandmother. 

Ms. Allen graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1993 with an A.B. in classics, and went on to earn an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in classics from King's College, Cambridge University, in 1994 and 1996, respectively. She then attended Harvard University where she earned an M.A. in 1998 and Ph.D. in 2001 in government. She is currently the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Her main interests are political theory, the history of political thought, political sociology, and Greek and Roman political history. She has authored many books including The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), Education and Equality (2016), and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (2017). She has served as the Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board and Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. In 2020 she received the John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity from the Library of Congress. She collaborated with the Library as Chair of the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences which issued a report titled Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century in June, 2020. The purpose of the Commission was "to explore how best to respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life and to enable more Americans to participate as effective citizens in a diverse 21st-century democracy."  Their report includes strategies and policy recommendations "to help the nation emerge as a more resilient democracy by 2026."

Ms. Allen is the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project at Harvard University which "seeks to identify, strengthen, and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, skills, and capacities that democratic citizens need in order to succeed at operating their democracy." Its current projects are the Declaration Resources Project, the Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Project (HULA), and the Youth and Participatory Politics Action and Reflection Frame. She was also a contributing columnist for The Washington Post until she announced that she would be exploring a 2022 run for Governor of Massachusetts in December, 2020.


Danielle Allen. (2021). Wikipedia.

"Danielle Allen Awarded the Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity by the Library of Congress". (2020). Harvard University Department of Government.

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. (2021). Harvard University.

Karter, E. (2017). " ‘Our Declaration’ selected for One Book program: Author Danielle Allen argues for defense of equality as cornerstone of democracy." Northwestern University Northwestern Now

Noden, M. (2008). "At home in two worlds: The first African-American to join the permanent faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, Danielle Allen ’93 works in both a scholar’s paradise and the real world outside." Princeton Alumni Weekly,

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