November 16 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
In-Person: An Evening With Ava Purkiss
Books & Books and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at FIU present…
AN EVENING WITH AVA PURKISS
(University of North Carolina Press, $29.94)
Thursday, November 16th, 6:00 PM | Books & Books, Coral Gables
Books & Books, in collaboration with the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at FIU, is delighted to welcome Ava Purkiss discussing her eye-opening book, Fit Citizens: A History of Black Women’s Exercise from Post-Reconstruction to Postwar America (University of North Carolina Press, $29.94)
***Please note: This event will take place at the Books & Books in Coral Gables at 265 Aragon Ave. Tickets are FREE and books will be available for purchase at the event. Please only RSVP if you intend to join us.
About the Book:
Exploring the links between political fitness and physical fitness for Black women At the turn of the twentieth century, as African Americans struggled against white social and political oppression, Black women devised novel approaches to the fight for full citizenship. In opposition to white-led efforts to restrict their freedom of movement, Black women used various exercises—calisthenics, gymnastics, athletics, and walking—to demonstrate their physical and moral fitness for citizenship. Black women’s participation in the modern exercise movement grew exponentially in the first half of the twentieth century and became entwined with larger campaigns of racial uplift and Black self-determination. Black newspapers, magazines, advice literature, and public health reports all encouraged this emphasis on exercise as a reflection of civic virtue.
In the first historical study of Black women’s exercise, Ava Purkiss reveals that physical activity was not merely a path to self-improvement but also a means to expand notions of Black citizenship. Through this narrative of national belonging, Purkiss explores how exercise enabled Black women to reimagine Black bodies, health, beauty, and recreation in the twentieth century. Fit Citizens places Black women squarely within the history of American physical fitness and sheds light on how African Americans gave new meaning to the concept of exercising citizenship.
About the Author:
Ava Purkiss is a historian and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of American Culture and Women’s and Gender Studies, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of race, gender, health, and the body. Her book, Fit Citizens: A History of Black Women’s Exercise from Post-Reconstruction to Postwar America (University of North Carolina Press, 2023), explores how African American women used physical exercise to express both literal and figurative fitness for citizenship. Her work places Black women squarely within the history of American fitness culture and challenges assumptions about Black women’s mobility, physicality, and corporality.
Purkiss earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, the American Association of University Women, and the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. She is the recipient of the 2017 Organization of American Historians Lerner-Scott Prize for best dissertation in U.S. women’s history and the 2018 Letitia Woods Brown prize for best article in African American women’s history from the Association of Black Women Historians