After training as a painter in Bombay, Souza came to England in 1949 to study at the Central School of Art in London. He lived in poverty until he found a market for his work in Europe and gradually established a reputation in Britain.
Souza wrote about this painting:
'I painted 'Negro in Mourning' in London when the race riots flared. I personally think it is one of my best works - socialist realism maybe, Expressionism certainly. Moreover, Negro in Mourning is close to the bone of man because it is about the colour of skin.'