Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Washington University in St. Louis
Website URL
20th Century United States, Education, African American
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Dr. Michelle A. Purdy is an Assistant Professor of Education in Arts and Sciences, Director of Undergraduate Educational Studies, and an affiliate faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Program in Urban Studies and the Center on Urban Research and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis. With research, teaching, and service commitments to race, culture, and equity in education, her specialties include the history of U.S. education, the history of African American education, the history of school desegregation, the history of access, opportunity, and equity, critical race theory, and oral history.

In her book, Transforming the Elite: Black Students and the Desegregation of Private Schools (UNC Press), Purdy analyzes how and why historically white elite private schools, or the most prestigious independent schools, opted to desegregate when not legally obligated to do so during the civil rights movement. Combining social history, policy analysis, and oral history, Purdy examines the desegregation of the well-known The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia alongside national efforts to diversify independent schools. Further she details how the first African American students to desegregate Westminster, who were transitioning from segregated to desegregated contexts, courageously navigated institutional and interpersonal racism in a contradictory and complex school culture.

Recent Publications



Purdy, Michelle A. Transforming the Elite: Black Students and the Desegregation of Private Schools. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Danns, Dionne, Michelle A. Purdy, and Christopher M. Span (editors). Using Past as Prologue: Contemporary Perspectives on African American Educational History. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2015.


Purdy, Michelle A. “Blurring Public and Private: The Pragmatic Desegregation Politics of an Elite Private School in Atlanta.” History of Education Quarterly 56, no. 1 (Feb 2016): 61-89.*

Purdy, Michelle A. “Courageous Navigation: African American Students at an Elite Private School in the South, 1967-1972.” Journal of African American History, Special Issue: “Civil Rights, Black Power, and African American Education,” 100, no. 4 (Fall 2015): 610-635.*

Book Chapters:

Purdy, Michelle A. “The John B. Ervin Scholars Program’s ‘Legacy of Commitment’” Grounded in Discovery and Dialogue” in The Crisis of Race in Higher Education: A Day of Discovery and Dialogue, edited by William F. Tate, IV, Nancy Staudt, and Ashley Macrander, 275-301. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing: 2016.

Purdy, Michelle A. “Connecting the Dots: Reflecting on Pedagogy and African American Educational History” in Using Past as Prologue: Contemporary Perspectives on African American Educational History, 341-352. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2015.  

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
20th century
Expertise by Topic
Children & Youth, Race, Urban History