Eva Royster McEwen (1887 – 1974)

Collection of the Redding/McEwen Family

Eva Royster McEwen was born in Princeton, New Jersey on August 6, 1887. She was the daughter of Alexander and Hannah Royster. Eva’s interest in art began at a very young age, and her unique creativity was noticed at home and at school. Eva attended The Witherspoon School for Colored Children, located on Witherspoon Street, where she was educated through eighth grade. Along with her love for school, she attended Mt. Pisgah AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church with her parents. She was recognized by Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church as a beloved Sunday school teacher and was asked to teach at this church. Eva accepted the offer and for the rest of her life was a faithful member at this church where Reverend William Drew Robeson, Paul Leroy Robeson’s father, was the Pastor.

Eva studied academics and art, developing an interest in Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo de Vinci among other known artists. She had a special interest in lines to create two- and three-dimensional pictures. Her artistic talents and desire to learn more about art, led Eva to attend the Trenton Junior College, later Trenton State College, and The School of Industrial Arts. In 1903 she was recognized nationally for her artistic work. In 1905, Eva received a $5.00 award for her mechanical drawings. She received her college degree in 1905.

Eva Royster McEwen was the first Black women in New Jersey to receive an art degree and recognition for her artistic talents.