One of the leading African American statesmen during Reconstruction, John Roy Lynch was born in slavery and later sold with his mother and siblings to a planter in Natchez, Mississippi. Liberated when Union forces reached Natchez in 1863, Lynch strove to educate himself, and soon developed a passion for politics and parliamentary law. Advocating Republican Party initiatives for the advancement of southern blacks, Lynch spoke eloquently in support of the new Mississippi constitution, which extended voting rights to black men. Elected to the state legislature in 1869, he served as speaker of the house during his second term. In 1873, at the age of twenty-six, Lynch became the first African American to represent Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives. A champion for human rights legislation, Lynch helped win passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which he termed "an act of simple justice."