Public Programs

Mass Humanities Fall Forum

History, Historians, and Public Memory: A Conversation with Danielle Allen and Jill Lepore




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Two of the nation’s leading scholars join together for their first onstage conversation in this Mass Humanities forum. Danielle Allen and Jill Lepore will explore the role of historians in society, and the importance of history in a democracy. How can the study of the past inform a nation grappling with issues of identity, citizenship, and misinformation? In an era of contentious debates about historical events and figures, what forces influence public memory?

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. A 2019 Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities recipient, she is the author of six books, including Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014). Allen is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project, a distributed research and action lab at Harvard University that 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.

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. A prize-winning professor, she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, humanistic inquiry, and American history. Much of Lepore’s scholarship explores absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence. As a wide-ranging and prolific essayist, Lepore writes about American history, law, literature, and politics. She is the author of many award-winning books, including the bestselling These Truths: A History of the United States (2018). Her latest book is This America: The Case for the Nation (2019).


Each fall, Mass Humanities brings a stellar group of scholars, journalists, and public officials together for a series of public conversations examining fundamental aspects of our democratic culture. Past symposia have focused on the presidency, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Supreme Court, the role of the media in our democracy, military and civic culture in America and the internet and democracy, economic inequality, racial conciliation, fake news, and climate change.

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