John R. Lynch
In addition to being one of the few Black Representatives during the Reconstruction Era, John R. Lynch became a powerful force in the Republican Party, becoming the first Black man to lead and give a keynote address for a party's National Convention.
Lynch was born in Louisiana, and because his mother was enslaved, he and his brothers were as well. Though his white father tried to protect the family, they were sold to a man in Natchez, Mississippi who forced them into slave labor.
After being freed, Lynch struggled to find a path forward until he discovered his skill at politics. In 1869, he was elected into the Mississippi House of Representative, becoming the speaker at only 24-years-old. By 1873, he was elected to the US House, where he remains one of the youngest members throughout history.
John Lynch faced serious danger in continuing to participate in political life, with both his life and position threatened by violent protesters. In order to start his third term, he had to prove election tampering on the part of his opponent, which turned out to be incredibly overt.
Though he did not make it back into Congress after 1883, Lynch remained a major player in Mississippi politics, as well as taking on roles as a lawyer and a military man.