Although this name is, like that of Pendarvis, a reliable genetic marker
indicating a Negroid strain no matter how diluted, the early histories of these
two families was quite different.
To start with, Emanuel Rodriguez, progenitor of the Driggers, is among the
first Africans in this country whose biographies can be constructed from the
records of the period. Secondly, unlike the Pendarvises who were the heirs of a
wealthy white father, Emanuel Drigger (as his name came to be Anglicized),
although a free man, had only his work and wits with which to hold on to
whatever advantages came with being among the earliest non-natives to establish
themselves in this country.
From the court records and other legal documents of this period of Virginia
history, it is all too obvious that his children were barely able to keep their
heads above the tide of racism rising inexorably to drown whatever hopes and
aspirations Drigger had once had for his family. As Douglas Deal put it in his
article, "A Constricted World", "A plantation society based on the exploitation
of black slaves was emerging in Virginia and along with it came increasingly
racist attitudes and practices among whites that denied to free blacks the
social space that they, or at least their ancestors had enjoyed in earlier
As can be found in reading Deal's article, the life the Driggers led for at
least three generations is, in so many ways, comparable to that of many
families subsisting in urban centers today; from the incidence of run-ins with
the law, to that of unwed motherhood. It was not until the Driggers at last
achieved a certain level of financial stability towards the close of the 18th
century that their bi-racial make-up would be ignored by the white planter
class into which they had finally assimilated.
I suppose that it is precisely the association possible between this history
shared by so many of Georgia's upper crust society, replete with a roster of
the same problems currently confronting the inner city, which makes the Drigger
family such an interesting one to track.
Probably no clearer or more frightening an example of how ambiguously people of
mixed race were treated can be seen when one of the Driggers was foolhardy
enough to find himself singled out by the South Carolina Regulators. Taking
advantage of the "Negro Act", a convenient piece of Black code legislation
which the arm of South Carolina law could reach for when needed, the vigilantes
whose most conspicuous leader was none other than the mulatto Gideon Gibson, hanged Winslow
Drigger as a demonstration of how far they were prepared to go to bring law and
order back to their up river plantations.
On the other hand, however, another document I've come across is a citation
granted to Gideon Gibson to administer the estate of one Matthew Driggers on
the grounds that Gibson was his greatest creditor. What this would seem to
indicate, therefore, is that since he knew Gibson to be a person of colour, as
well, Drigger felt confident enough to go to him for the financial support he
needed. The citation granted in 1765 is obvious proof that he was right.
Other officially white Georgian families today descended from the Drigger are: