Knox Fellows are selected through a rigorous competitive process on the basis of "...future promise of leadership, strength of character, keen mind, balanced judgement and a devotion to the democratic ideal."

The Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships were established at Harvard University in 1945 by a gift from Annie Reid Knox, wife of the late Frank Knox. Knox, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy in the 1940s and was a highly regarded politician and businessman, believed that strong ties between the United States and Britain were essential to international peace. The Knox Fellowship program promotes the Knox legacy through scholarly exchange between the U.S., Britain and the dominions of the British Commonwealth.

Since the first Knox Fellowships were awarded in 1948, more than 625 Knox Fellows from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have studied at Harvard University.