Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen

Director, Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics
James Bryant Conant University Professor
Danielle new headshot with bird necklace

Danielle Allen is James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics. She is a professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. She is also a seasoned nonprofit leader, democracy advocate, national voice on pandemic response, distinguished author, and mom.


Danielle’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change at the helm of a $6 billion foundation, writing as a national opinion columnist, advocating for cannabis legalization, democracy reform, and civic education, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts. During the height of COVID in 2020, Danielle’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in the country’s first-ever Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience; her policies were adopted in federal legislation and a presidential executive order. Danielle made history as the first Black woman ever to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. She was the 2020 winner of the Library of Congress' Kluge Prize, which recognizes scholarly achievement in the disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prize. She received the Prize "for her internationally recognized scholarship in political theory and her commitment to improving democratic practice and civics education." 


A past chair of the Mellon Foundation and Pulitzer Prize Board, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Philosophical Society. As a scholar, she currently concentrates on the Democratic Knowledge Project and Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiative, housed at the Safra Center, on the Democracy Renovation Project, housed at Harvard’s Ash Center, and on the Our Common Purpose Commission at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Her many books include the widely acclaimed Our Declaration: a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality; Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.; Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus; and the forthcoming Justice by Means of Democracy. She writes a column on constitutional democracy for the Washington Post. 


Outside the University, in her role as board chair for Partners In Democracy, she continues to advocate for democracy reform to create greater voice and access in our democracy, and drive progress towards a new social contract that serves and includes us all. She also serves on the board of the Cambridge Health Alliance.


Find Danielle's CV here

Visit Danielle's Faculty Page.

Visit Danielle's Personal Website.

General inquiries and all current and former students, please direct your query to Danielle through Susan Orr at susanorr@fas.harvard.edu.

Democratic Knowledge Project or Educating for American Democracy: Katie Giles, cgiles@fas.harvard.edu 

National Ethics Project inquiries: Jess Miner, jminer@fas.harvard.edu

Our Common Purpose inquiries: Darshan Goux, dgoux@amacad.org

Justice, Health, and  Democracy Impact Initiative: jonathan hack, jhack@fas.harvard.edu 

Speaking inquiries: hannah@lyceumagency.com.


Center Leadership

Current Role