Dee Brown Biography

Dee Brown Biography

Dee Brown helped reinvent America’s understanding of Native Americans. Published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, was contemperaneous with the famous "Keep America Beautiful" commerical, which featured a Native American (played by a Sicilian American) in a canoe, shedding a tear over the pollution he saw. Dee Brown's sympathetic and rational view of Native Americans' history with the United States may have been informed by a childhood friendship with a Creek Indian boy. He also met Moses J. "Chief" yellow Horse, who was the first "full-blooded" Native American to play Major League baseball.

In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Brown laid out the ugly truth of the subjugation, expulsion, and murder of Native Americans in the late 1800s. In doing so, he helped dispel misconceptions fueled by media that had continually portrayed Native Americans as “bad guys” in classic westerns. The book was Brown’s crowning achievement, not merely for its exploration of Native American history, but also for its exposure of American identity and the foundations upon which it was built.

Facts and Trivia

  • Brown worked for the Department of Agriculture before serving in the military in World War II.
  • Despite his fascination with the American West and Native Americans, Dee Brown was not a Native American himself, as was commonly assumed.
  • Brown is best known as a writer, but he earned a master’s degree in library science and taught at the university level for several years.
  • Brown published ten histories, most of which document the American frontier in the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • A television film of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee premiered to great acclaim in the summer of 2007. It received seventeen Emmy nominations.


Dee Alexander Brown earned a reputation as one of the leading and most prolific writers about life in the early American West. He was born in the northern Louisiana town of Alberta. Before he and his younger sister were old enough for school, their father was killed and their mother moved the family across the border to Stephens, Arkansas. While their mother worked, the children were cared for by their grandmother. It was his grandmother who first aroused Dee’s interest in the world of the printed page. His mother also loved books and always made sure that their home had plenty. Before he entered the first grade, Dee was reading the works of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Much of the money that Dee earned as a boy was spent on books and the new pulp magazines with their fascinating stories. One of these magazines, Blue Book, published Dee Brown’s first short story while he was still in high school. The Brown family moved to the city of Little Rock so that Dee could attend a better high school. This gave him access to a good public library, which soon became his second home. He quickly became an admirer of such writers as Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, and William Faulkner.

Several factors were involved in Brown’s developing an interest in history, the American West, and American Indians. The first was his reading of an edition of History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark. Visits from relatives who lived in west Texas provided further influence. Many of his boyhood companions were American Indians. He also met Moses Yellowhorse, a American Indian baseball player for the Arkansas Travelers. Years later, Dee Brown’s first western novel was entitled Yellowhorse.

After he finished high school, Brown got a job as a printer and a reporter for the Harrison Daily Times in Boone County. He often combined the two positions by...

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Dee Brown Published by Gale Cengage

Dee Brown was born on February 28, 1908, in Alberta, Louisiana. He grew up in Arkansas, where he met many Native Americans. He found it hard...

(The entire section is 296 words.)


Bodine, Paul S. “Dee Brown: Overview.” In Contemporary Popular Writers, edited by Dave Mote. New York: St. James Press, 1997. A helpful introduction.

Brown, Dee. Interview by Robert Dahlin. Publishers Weekly, March 21, 1980. Discusses Creek Mary’s Blood.

Freilicher, L. P. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: The Story Behind the Book.” Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1971. Discusses the content and popularity of the book with the author and publisher.

Hagen, Lyman B. Dee Brown. Edited by Wayne Chatterton and James H. Maguire. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1990. A volume from the Boise State University Western Writers series. Includes bibliographical references.

Klemesrud, J. “Behind the Best Sellers: Creek Mary’s Blood.” The New York Times Book Review, April 13, 1980. Gives Brown’s observations about this book and his plans for the future.