César Cauce was born in pre-revolution Cuba, the son of the minister of education under Batista. His family immigrated to the United States during the Cuban Revolution, settling in Miami, Florida. In 1976 he graduated magna cum laude from Duke University with a degree in history. He was offered a full scholarship to study history at the University of California at Berkley, but turned it down to stay in Durham and work as a union organizer. He got a job at Duke University Hospital and fought to unionize workers. In 1976 he joined the Workers Viewpoint Organization. In 1977 he met his future wife, Floris Caton. Cauce was active in union strikes throughout North Carolina and wrote for the Workers Viewpoint Newspaper.
On July 8, 1979, the Communist Workers Party (formerly the WVO) organized a protest of the Ku Klux Klan’s presentation of Birth of a Nation at the China Grove, North Carolina, town hall. Feeling the protest was a success, the CWP organized an anti-Klan march and conference for November 3, 1979, in Greensboro. The CWP and protest participants convened that morning at Morningside Homes. At 11:18 a caravan of cars carrying Klansmen and Nazis arrived. After a shot was fired from the head of the caravan, caravan members removed guns from the trunk of one of the cars. In the following eighty-eight seconds, five members of the CWP were killed. Cauce fought against his assailants with only a picket stick, standing between them and other protestors. He was struck on the head and shoulders, causing him to fall to the ground. He was then fatally shot in the chest.