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RG 30/215 - Robbins Strong (1912-1999)
Scope and Content

The Robbins Strong papers primarily consist of the six photographic albums and five manuscripts that document the emergence of modern China. The collection covers almost exclusively Strong’s prolific career in China as an Oberlin-in-Shansi representative and as an active Christian missionary (1930s- 1960s). However, the collected works face several shortcomings in shedding insight into Strong’s personal career. Most of his correspondence between friends and family were written under strict censorship regulations and his autobiographical sketch is condensed into a mere four pages.

Of significance to Oberlin’s institutional history with China are the six photographic albums that capture life at Oberlin Village in Shansi Province during the 1930s-1950s. The intimate photographs of trips to Northern and Central China accompanied by Carl Huber, Raymond Tyson Moyer (1899-1993) and Dorothy Moyer (1904-1989) allude to close relationships that his correspondence and autobiographical sketch do not account for. Most importantly, Strong’s photo albums capture and preserve images of other Shansi representatives in Oberlin Village and at the Agricultural Department.

The five manuscripts by Robbins Strong include the immaculate diary he kept as an Oberlin-in-Shansi representative entitled “Three Transitional Years (1934-1937)- Life in Shansi, China,” 1934-7. In three years, Strong witnessed the foundation of modern Communist China, and noted in his diary his thoughts and feelings on the Communist’s Long March into Shansi (1936), Chiang Kai-shek’s attempt to revitalize Chinese tradition with the New Life Movement (1934), and increasing Japanese pressure in Northern China. Strong recorded his reactions to a Western communist country in “Russia 1937,” 1937, which in many respects was a continuation of “Three Transitional Years”. His MA thesis “Christianity and China- A Study of Church and State,” 1938, critically examined the role of Christianity in post-Boxer Rebellion (1900) China. Although Strong did not record diaries in the years to follow, he compiled “Ten Tempestuous Years- The Stronghold in China,” 1940-1950 and “Post-Asian Strongholds,” 1950-1980--- both are a collection of short essays and letters of correspondence from friends and family. In his later years, Strong noted that because these documents were written under strict censorship regulations, his correspondence did not accurately reflect his political ideology and personal agenda of the time.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Biographical File, 1990, 1991, 1999 (1 folder)

Included in this series are Robbins Strong’s four-page autobiographical essay 1912-1990, a pre-interview for “The Dragon and the Eagle Film Project,” 1991 and his obituary, 1999.

Series II. Writings File, 1934-1980, 1987, 1989 (6 folders, 0.4 linear feet)

This series consists of five manuscripts by Robbins Strong, including his diary entitled “Three Transitional Years (1934-1937)- Life in Shansi, China,” 1934-1937; a continuation of the former journal entitled “Russia, 1937,” 1937; his MA thesis “Christianity and China- A Study of Church and State,” 1938; and two compilations of short essays and letters of correspondence from friends and family entitled “Ten Tempestuous Years- The Stronghold in China,” 1940-1950 and “Post-Asian Strongholds,” 1950-1980. These writings were reproduced and edited by Strong in 1987 and 1989 as typescript documents.

Series III. Photographic Albums, c. 1930s - c. 1950s (Six 12.25” x 9” albums, 1.2 linear feet)

Comprised of six photographic albums, this series generally spans from c. 1930s - c. 1950s and captures images of Strong’s personal trips to Northern and Central China, other Oberlin in Shansi representatives and life at the Oberlin Village in Shansi Province. For a complete list of the photographic albums, please consult the inventory list.

Series IV. Photographic Prints and Negatives, 1966 (1 folder)

This series consists of a 3.5” x 4.5” photographic negative, 1966, a student photograph, n.d., a photographic portrait, 1966 and three family photographs, n.d.

Provenance

The Robbins Strong papers were donated to Oberlin College Archives in two accessions. The manuscripts (1990/106) were donated in 1990 by Robbins Strong, and the photographic albums (1995/030) were received in 1995 from the Shansi Memorial Association.

Related Materials

Papers of Oberlin College Presidents Henry Churchill King (RG 2/6), 1873-1934, and Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), 1927-46. Papers of Lydia Lord Davis (RG 30/80), 1862-1944; Florence Fitch (RG 30/37), 1807-1951; Alice Moon Williams (RG 30/58), 1883-1952; John Griffith Olmstead (30/2), c. 1902-1930; Everett D. Hawkins (30/130), 1927-1972; Herbert and Josephine Van Meter (30/288), c. 1930s-1987; Raymond T. Moyer (30/260), 1921-1992; Ellsworth C. Carlson (30/176), 1935-2000; Paul L. Corbin (30/49), 1886-1937; and records of the YMCA-YWCA (RG 29), c. 1900-1965; and the Oberlin Band of Student Volunteers for Foreign Missions (RG 19/3/1), 1886-1927.

 
 
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