With the hot gales of Congo nationalism blowing next door, the rulers of the sprawling, white-dominated Rhodesias were casting nervous glances at their own restive African populations. In copper-rich Northern Rhodesia, where apartheid-loving South African miners have settled by the thousands, the government has sought to ward off the independence virus among the blacks by marshaling troops along the Congo border, churning out emergency decrees and clapping African leaders into detention.

Last week, in a refreshing shift of tactics, Northern Rhodesia's legislature passed a law that promised to be a milestone in race relations in southern Africa. In...

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