Famous Families

Drigger

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 decades."

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:

Bennett
Tomlinson
Lastinger
Thornton
Green
Wester
Floyd
Alderman
Smith

Canova
Mott
Bryant
Roberts
Hill
Darby
Boland
Sanders
Harrell
Researched and Written by Mario de Valdes y Cocom

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