The Black Madonna represents the Virgin Mary. However, the story brings out a deeper meaning than just traditional Christianity. The statue located in the sisters' home is an old ship's figurehead which washes ashore. When the slaves find the statue, they decide she looks like the Virgin Mary. They recognized that although the statue is battered and worn, it has survived great ordeals, and this gives them hope and strength. The story behind the statue is passed down to new generations, and August passes it down to Lily as well.
The Black Madonna also represents Lily's search, both for her physical mother and for spiritual meaning and healing. August believes that the Madonna can serve as a stand-in mother for Lily. In time, Lily begins to understand that although she is also battered and worn, she has survived. She begins to see the Black Madonna as a mother for herself and recognize the Madonna's power to serve as a mother to anyone who reaches out for her.