The third largest city in Florida, Tampa is a large metropolitan area surrounding Tampa Bay, a natural harbor on the state’s west coast.
Tampa’s first inhabitants included the Tocobaga and Pohoy tribes, which were later absorbed into the Seminoles. Early contact between Spanish settlers and native peoples in the 1500s led to the spread of disease, devastating local populations and leaving Tampa Bay largely uninhabited by the mid-1600s. In 1824, shortly after assuming possession of Florida from Spain, the U.S. established the Tampa Settlement, though growth remained slow until 1884, when railroad, port, and luxury hotel construction boosted trade and tourism. The city’s rapid growth brought a number of social problems along with prosperity. In the first half of the 20th century, Tampa became notorious for organized crime activity and unpunished violence against Black people and the large immigrant population. After desegregation in the second half of the century, the city faced a period of racial unrest.
Today, Tampa is committed to creating a healthier, more equitable environment for its racially, ethnically, and economically diverse residents, however structural barriers and many of the racial disparities from the city’s history persist.