Cecil Brown was born in Bolton, North Carolina on July 3, 1943. Brown attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where he earned his B.A. in English in 1966, his M.A. degree from the University of Chicago in 1967, and his Ph.D. in African American Studies, Folklore and Narrative in 1993 from UC Berkeley.
He has published short stories, scripts, and novels. He also worked on the 1977 Richard Pryor film Which Way Is Up? as a screenwriter.