Ava Purkiss' research and teaching interests concern the intersection of race, gender, and health. Her work examines African American women's purposeful exercise in the early twentieth century, with particular attention to how physical exercise enabled black women to express both literal and figurative fitness for citizenship. The significance of this work lies in its unprecedented and unequivocal placement of black women in the history of American fitness culture, intra-racial fat stigmatization, and "active" recreation. Purkiss' book-in-progress compels scholars to rethink assumptions about black women's mobility, physicality, and definitions of health. Purkiss received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and has held fellowships at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. She is the recipient of the 2017 Organization of American Historians Lerner-Scott Prize for best dissertation in U.S. women's history.