The Female HBCU Grads Who Left Outsized Athletic Legacies

By Sameer Rao Mar 20, 2018

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have a legacy of producing top-ranked athletes. The Undefeated celebrated their accomplishments by compiling a list of "The Top 25 HBCU Athletes of All Time," which it published today (March 20).

The list features three women whose successes stand out in an industry where male players are more likely to be hailed as superstars. Get into their bonafides below.

Yolanda Laney, Basketball (Ranked Number 20)
Laney helped lead Cheyney University of Pennsylvania to its first NCAA Women’s Championship game in 1982, where the team lost 76-62 to Louisiana Tech University. Laney also earned an Academic All-American honor for athletic and academic achievement that year. Per Cheyney University, Laney briefly played professional basketball in Europe after graduating. She eventually became a lawyer and currently works as an assistant city solicitor for the government of Atlantic City.

Althea Gibson, Tennis (Ranked Number 10)
Gibson conquered the world of international tennis within a few years of graduating from Florida A&M University in 1953. She broke the tennis color barrier by becoming the first Black woman to win a series of international competitions: the French Open in 1956, Wimbledon in 1957 and the U.S. Nationals (a precursor to the U.S. Open) in 1958. Gibson endured racism from the tennis establishment throughout her career; the Library of Congress notes that the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association would not let her compete in the U.S. Nationals until Alice Marble, a White tennis champion, publicly called out the association.

Wilma Rudolph, Track and Field (Ranked Number 3)
According to her official biography at, Rudolph overcame debilitating childhood polio to become a running champion. Tennessee State University recruited her as a sprinter before her Olympic debut at the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Rudolph earned three gold medals—one each in 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 4×100-meter relay—at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome. She was the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at one Olympic tournament. 

Read the full list here. The Undefeated invites readers to tweet their own candidates for the list using the hashtag, #HBCU25