Barton College was incorporated as Atlantic Christian College on May 1, 1902 by the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, following the purchase of the Kinsey Seminary in 1901. The college is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). On September 6, 1990, the school changed its name to Barton College in honor of Barton Warren Stone, a founder of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who was active in eastern North Carolina. Through its Division of Lifelong Learning, Barton College opened eastern North Carolina's Barton Weekend College in the fall of 1990.
On March 24, 2007, the men's basketball team won the NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Championship. The team, with a 31–5 record in 2006–07, defeated the previously undefeated defending champion Winona State Warriors, who held a Division II-record 57-game winning streak at the time. Winona State looked to repeat as champs, taking a 74–67 lead with 45 seconds remaining. Barton's Anthony Atkinson then scored 10 points in the last 39 seconds, including the winning layup at the buzzer for a 77–75 victory. Atkinson has since become a fan favorite with the Harlem Globetrotters.