Dawn Mabalon

Photo from Little Manila Rising, littlemanila.org

Filipina American, History, Historic Preservation, Activism, Education

Dawn Mabalon


Dr. Dawn Mabalon was born in 1972 in Stockton, California, the daughter and granddaughter of Filipino American farmworkers. A passionate scholar who cared deeply about Filipino American history, Dawn Mabalon’s background and love for her roots shaped both her scholarship and activism. Only 45 years old when she passed away, she made it her life’s mission to bring recognition to the contributions of Filipino Americans to American history. 

Mabalon worked tirelessly to preserve the memory of the Little Manila district in Stockton, California, where the largest population of Filipinos outside the Philippines lived and worked as farmworkers from the 1920s to the 1960s. Through her writings, teachings and vocal activism, she brought awareness to places like Little Manila, and people like Larry Itliong, who helped secure agricultural workers’ rights by organizing fellow Filipino workers to strike for better wages and join forces with Mexican American workers to form the United Farm Workers.

As a result of her activism, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Little Manila as one of America’s most endangered places in 2003. Mabalon’s co-founding of the Little Manila Foundation with friend Dillon Delvo (1999) and her book Little Manila is in the Heart (2013) ensured that the place she called “the crossroads of Filipino America” will be forever remembered.  

Mabalon graduated as magna cum laude with a BA degree in history with emphasis in Asian American Studies from UCLA, where she also earned her master’s in Asian American Studies (1997). While at UCLA, she co-produced the documentary Beats, Rhymes, and Resistance: Filipinos in Hip Hop in Los Angeles. In 2004, she earned her doctorate in American history and then joined the history department at San Francisco State University, where she was an associate professor at the time of her death. 

Mabalon was beloved by her students and known for her lectures in oral history, women and gender studies, historic preservation, and Filipino American foodways. Her many activities included partnering with her close friend Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales to train public school teachers in Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies for the Pin@y Educational Partnerships. She was also a published poet and children’s book author, co-writing Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong (2018), which was published after her death. Dawn Mabalon was the National Scholar of the Filipino American National Historical Society and received awards for her work, including a 2004 Community Service Award from Filipinas Magazine, a 2005 Legionarios del Trabajo award, the 2016 community service award from Asians and Pacific Islanders in Historic Preservation, and a Mid-Career award from the Asian American Studies Association’s Filipino section in 2018.

Among her publications are:

Little Manila is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California (2013)

Filipinos in Stockton (2008)

Margaret Magat

(coming soon)