Mitch Albom was born in New Jersey in 1958, though he spent the greater part of his youth in Philadelphia. In 1979, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where met and studied under his beloved professor, Morrie Schwartz, the title character of Tuesdays With Morrie. In 1982, Albom was awarded a Masters degree from Columbia University in New York. After failed stints as an amateur boxer and nightclub musician, Albom began his career as a sports journalist, writing articles for newspapers such as the The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Detroit Free Press where he was employed from 1985 until his reunion with Morrie in 1995. Albom also has his own nationally syndicated radio show, Monday Sports Albom. In 1995, Albom began gathering notes for his book, Tuesdays With Morrie, which documents his and Morrie's discussions on the meaning of life which they hold each Tuesday of every week in Morrie's home. Albom claims to have written the book to offset Morrie's severe medical expenses, and has said in interviews that the profits from the two-year bestseller are divided between himself and the Schwartz family.
Morrie Schwartz was born in 1916. He graduated from New York's City College, and went on to win a fellowship to the University of Chicago where he was awarded a Ph.D. in sociology. In 1959, he began teaching sociology at Brandeis, a nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university, established in 1948. It was not until 1995, when he was dying from ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, that Morrie ended his career as a professor. A fatal neuromuscular disease, ALS is characterized by progressive muscle debilitation that ultimately results in paralysis. ALS is commonly known as Lou Gherig's disease, after the famous baseball player who died of the disease in 1941 at the age of forty.
Albom begins his visits to Morrie in mid-1995, during the climax of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Simpson, an acclaimed star football player, had been on trial for the June 1994, murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her acquaintance, Ronald Goldman. Simpson had pleaded "absolutely not guilty" to the double murder, although he had been known for violence against his ex-wife and had led the police in a car chase. Major controversy surrounded jury members, who were said to have been racially biased in Simpson's favor. When in October of 1995, the jury acquitted Simpson of the murder charges, the nation suffered a severe racial division, white against black, evidenced in Tuesdays With Morrie by Connie's horror at the announcement of the "not guilty" verdict.
In Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch recalls how the political controversies of the 1970's affected his and Morrie's years at Brandeis University. Following the nation's withdrawal from the Vietnam War in 1973, and former President Nixon's resignation from office in 1974, the Brandeis campus, like many college campuses nation-wide, was a hot bed for political debate and protest. Continuing the thread of racial tension in Tuesdays With Morrie, is a story Morrie tells about an incident in which he had acted as the negotiator between the university president and a group of black students who felt that they were being oppressed by the school administration. The students had established their protesting grounds in one of the university's science buildings, and hung a banner from a window that read: "Malcolm X University." The banner paid homage to Malcolm X, a premier black leader and militant advocate of black nationalism who was assassinated in 1965.