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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPhoto of a slave family on a plantation in Georgia
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Family
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight All in the Family Personal Narratives Original Docs
Character Spotlight The Family

Photo of actor portraying Emmanuel Driggus
Photo of actor portraying Emmanuel Driggus
Emmanuel Driggus

Around 1640, Virginian planter Captain Pott purchased two slaves, Emmanuel Driggus and his wife, Frances. Pott then contracted their two adopted daughters into service. With the future in mind Driggus ensured that their contract was terminal. After a specified period, the girls would be released from servitude. In fact, the younger child was liberated only seven years into her thirty-year term. Emmanuel bought her freedom with money earned raising livestock.

Photo of actors portraying Emmanuel Driggus' daughters
Emmanuel Driggus' daughters
While enslaved, Emmanuel and Frances had several children. Born slaves, without the security of contracts, at least two of these were sold to rescue Pott from financial woes.

After Potts' 1658 death, Emmanuel gained his freedom. Now a widower, he remarried and started a new family. Emmanuel continued to provide for the still enslaved children of his first marriage however. He named them among the lessees of his land and bequeathed livestock to them, hoping that such possessions would be assets, as they had been to him, in the pursuit of freedom.

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of slave in field
A Father's Gift

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of Emmanual Driggus' daughters
Emmanuel Driggus made his gifts to his children official by registering them with the Northampton County Court in Virginia. September 29, 1673, Driggus stood before a court clerk and made the following pledge:

"I, [Emmanuel Driggus] of the lower part of the County of Northampton, Negro, out of the Naturall love and affection I have and beare to my Two Daughters, Francy and Jane, Negroes ... Doe freely and absolutely give and grant unto my Said Two Daughters and to their heirs ... One Bay mare which I bought of Daniell Till, beinge foure yeares old."
Learn more about Emmanuel Driggus and his family in Douglas Deal's book RACE AND CLASS IN COLONIAL VIRGINIA (Garland, 1993)

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