Eugene E. Barnett Memoir

Manuscript Collection #379
Barnett, Eugene E.
Physical description
0.11 Cubic Feet,
Preferred Citation
Eugene E. Barnett Memoir (#379), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Memoir (1888-1936) consisting of typescript memoir, Christianity, Chinese religion.

Biographical/historical information

Eugene E. Barnett grew up in Florida, studied at Emory College, Vanderbilt University, and the University of North Carolina and spent twenty-six years as an important official with the YMCA in China.

Scope and arrangement

His memoirs of the early period in the United States include genealogical material on both the Epperson (pp. 11, 12) and Barnett (pp. 8-10) families; accounts of his father's circuit riding (p. 14); boyhood experiences in Leesburg, Jasper, and Tampa, Florida (pp. 23-36); curriculum, expenses, impressions, and experiences at Emory College, Vanderbilt University, and the University of North Carolina (pp. 38-64); and accounts of the YMCA of this period, its missionary emphasis, conventions and training (pp. 52-69)

In China, Barnett worked as the initial general secretary of the YMCA in Hangchow from 1911 to 1920 and then as the national executive of China student YMCA work from 1920 to 1936. Of this period he records physical descriptions of Shanghai (p. 75) and Hangchow (pp. 80-82, 159-160); the nature of the grass roots YMCA work in Hangchow (pp. 103-120); remaining memories of the Boxer Rebellion among Europeans and Americans (p. 88); anticipation of the collapse of the Ch'ing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of 1912 (pp. 96-99); and some analysis of the YMCA's strong Chinese leadership (pp. 89-92, 155, 202, 214, 216-218), its strident criticism from fundamentalists (pp. 146-149, 175), its eclipse during the economic depression of the 1930s (pp. 286-292) and its large number of former student members in high government positions (pp. 129-132, 134, 135).

The author further describes the cultural life of China, including the sense of destiny and greatness the Chinese people possessed (p. 141), their interest in national rather than personal salvation (p. 292), their literary renaissance (p. 141), their appreciation of good writing (pp. 135, 174) and the growing anti-American sentiment in the 1920s (p. 203).

Also of special note, Barnett discusses his own analysis of Christianity and indigenous Chinese religions (pp. 83-86, 112-113, 143-144, 212), the response of Germans in China to the news of the beginning of World War I (p. 138), Chinese financial contributions to the American Red Cross during the war years (p. 140), disillusionment with the West in China caused by the war (p. 141), accounts of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (p. 275), the siege of Shanghai by Japanese forces in January 1932 (p. 281), the response of Japanese and Chinese Christians to the invasion of Manchuria (p. 282-283) and the author's estimation while visiting France in 1923 of French antagonism to Germany (p. 203).

Of further interest are the memoir passages concerning Marxism, including the heroism of the Communist martyrs (p. 209); criticism of the Nanking incident (p. 208); firsthand impressions of the Soviet Union (p. 234); Marxist criticism of Christianity (p. 236); Christians who supported the Communist movement (pp. 183, 237-240); and "How Chinese Communism Look to Me During its Salad Years" (pp. 222-240).

In addition, the memoirs contain brief remarks respecting Barnett's encounters with or impressions of various significant personalities: e.g., Frank Porter Graham (pp. 60-61), Rienhold Niebuhr (p. 190), John Dewey (pp. 142, 199) and Chiang Kai-shek (pp. 230, 270).

Administrative information
Custodial History

January 9, 1979, 304 pages; Memoir (1888-1936) of important YMCA official in China. Gift of Mr. Doak Barnett, Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C., Dr. Burton Beers, N.C. State University, Raleigh, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Doak Barnett, Brookings Institute

Gift of Dr. Burton Beers, N.C. State University

Processing information

Processed by S. McKenzie, March 1981

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.