Catfish Row (originally called cabbage row) served as the inspirational setting of George Gershwin’s opera, “Porgy & Bess.”
The Story of Porgy
Porgy was a crippled beggar who got around in a cart drawn by a goat. Porgy’s real name was Sammy Smalls. Bess’ real name was Maggie Barnes. Porgy, in real life, was described in an old Charleston newspaper article, as a mean and vicious person who had killed three men. Unfortunately, in 1924, Porgy took sick, but was believed to have been “fixed” (rooted, voodoo, witch craft) because of the way he was said to have been buried when he died. An article in the Charleston Magazine written by Jack Leland reports that Porgy’s grave was dug North to South because he died an “unrepented” sinner. This would not have been true, for in keeping with black traditions and customs, a deceased would have been buried North to South if they died mysteriously and was believed to have been “rooted.” Turning the grave North to South meant that the spirit cannot rest turned that direction and would always haunt the unknown assailant. The person would die in a matter of weeks, and they usually did.