People (or rather, high-brow critics without a clue for the masses) often cringe at the idea of paperback romance novels, although it is this area of publishing that keeps publishing afloat and able to keep high-brow (and maybe kinda boring) books published. Paperback romance is the most profitable market of publishing.
Anyway, the pioneer of black romance novels is a journalist named Elsie Washington, who wrote under the pen name Rosalind Wells. In 1980 she published the very first paperback romance that featured two African American star-crossed lovers. That book was called Entwined Destinies.
It was her first and only novel, though she went on to publish a non-fiction book -- Uncivil War: The Struggle Between Black Men and Black Women.
The author died in May, just a few weeks ago. Read and listed to the story on NPR: Trailblaizing Romance Writer Remembered. Remembrance in the New York Times.