Oscar nominee Danielle Brooks learns the “empowering” news on ‘Finding Your Roots

Danielle Brooks is learning deep history about her family.

On the latest episode of Finding Your Roots, which also features Dionne Warwick, the Oscar-nominated actress learns that one of her ancestors, named Dolphin, enlisted in the Union army during the Civil War on June 1, 1863.

Dolphin was formerly enslaved in Shelby County, Tennessee. Upon being freed, he fought in the Union army for three years beginning at age 18, as shown in historical documentation.

“That is pretty cool,” says Brooks, 34, in a clip shared exclusively with PEOPLE.

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<p>PBS</p> Danielle Brooks on the Feb. 13, 2024, episode of <em>Finding Your Roots</em>

PBS

Danielle Brooks on the Feb. 13, 2024, episode of Finding Your Roots

Related: Sunny Hostin Learns Her Ancestors ‘Likely’ Owned Slaves on Finding Your Roots

Host Henry Louis Gates Jr. asks Brooks, “Did it ever occur to you, when you were watching Glory, that you might have an ancestor who fought with the U.S. Colored Troops?”

“Never. That’s empowering,” said the Color Purple star, as Gates agreed, “That’s a big deal!”

He also said earlier in the clip while reading the official documentation, “Dolphin, listed here as ‘Dolson,’ joined the Union army to fight for the freedom of our people.”

<p>PBS</p> Danielle Brooks on the Feb. 13, 2024, episode of <em>Finding Your Roots</em><p>PBS</p> Danielle Brooks on the Feb. 13, 2024, episode of <em>Finding Your Roots</em>

PBS

Danielle Brooks on the Feb. 13, 2024, episode of Finding Your Roots

Related: Jesse Williams Wants to Share the Story of His Great-Great Grandfather’s Ascent from Slavery ‘with My Children’

Brooks is up for an Academy Award next month in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her role as Sofia in the musical The Color Purple.

Additionally, the Orange Is the New Black alum’s portrayal of Sofia made her a best supporting actress nominee at the 2024 Critics Choice Awards. It also earned her a nod for best performance by a female actor in a supporting role at the Golden Globes. Brooks is up for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards later this month, as well.

The Oscar nod also cements Brooks’ status as an EGOT nominee. She previously nabbed nominations for the other three letters in “EGOT” — Emmy Awards in 2021 and 2023, a Grammy Award in 2017 (which she won!) and a Tony Award in 2016.

Finding Your Roots airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.

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